An excerpt from my script review for Elemental (2023) which will be available 11/21/23:

2.) Plot Stability

It started off well enough.

The idea of these two fire elementals going to Elemental City for a better life was cool.

The city was a unique twist on a classic version of New York City.

Then as it played out, we’re presented with these two fire elementals, Bernie and Cinder, who are in a city called “Elemental City” but other fire folks are nowhere to be seen?

That was when I started to get worried.

For instance, we’re told over and over how this city isn’t meant for them, but right as they enter there’s a vendor selling Hot Logs (get it? like hot dogs) but what other element would be eating those?

Earth maybe?

This began a recurring issue, the script didn’t even make sense to itself.

Anyway, Bernie sets up a “fire culture” style shop, we’re given a time lapse of the him doing this, more fire elementals moving into the city, and then their daughter Ember growing up.

Ember’s destiny is to take over the shop from Bernie…once she’s ready…

Okay, we’ve seen this before too.

It was just as tired in this plot as it was in countless others, but the issue here is we’re shown that that’s all she wants…until suddenly it isn’t.

Again, the script confuses itself.

You can’t show us a character actively working towards a goal and then have her suddenly go, “Oh no, that was never what I wanted…” at the end when she chooses something else.

Can characters change their minds? Certainly, but we need to see some sort of doubt as they move through the plot.

I can’t be presented a daughter who wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps, and suddenly 180 in the final act to make fancy glass globes.

Give me proof she wants something different!

And this wasn’t even the major issue…

What was, you ask?

That the story was so heavy-handed in its “immigrant story” and the prejudice they face in new countries.

Bernie and his family are presented in such a tired Asian stereotype from the way they talk, to how they act towards the other elements, to their culture…that I’m half surprised Awkwafina didn’t voice Ember as it’s the same role she plays again and again.

It was embarrassing.

And how all the other elements treat them…

It’s fucking Element City!!! The three elements didn’t know there was a fourth?!

And it’s just cliché, after cliché, after cliché…

At one point a character actually says to Ember, “You speak our language so well.”

Her reply is she spoke it all her life, but who is this line meant to influence?

Certainly not the kids!

So you’re beating the parents over the head forcing them into what? Some sort of deep moral dilemma?

Do immigrants face prejudice? Certainly.

Are you going to solve that issue in a kids movie? No.

So why are you shoe horning this lecture into your script?

I’m not even going to deal with the “love story” but I’m glad they didn’t force some “shot for shot” elemental West Side Story on us.

But as far as “opposites attract” go…yeah the love story is pretty much West Side Story.

And the visual puns…we’ll talk more about this in the dialogue section, but it felt like the writers were just doing a 120+ pages of setups for bad gags.

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