Elvis provides a look into the life and career of the King of Rock and Roll and his relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Austin Butler’s immersive performance stuns as he brings the singer back to life with so much energy and character, that you’d believe it was really him in every shot he’s in. The costume design is accurate to Elvis’ real wardrobe and overall gives the film a spectacular visual side to it. The musical sequences are by far the most entertaining, impressive, and even emotional aspects of the film. If that’s enough for you, this movie is worth a watch, but this movie is brought down by Baz Luhrmann’s pretentious style (director of Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet and The Great Gatsby). The editing is very flashy and fast in an attempt to immerse you into the vivid world of Elvis’ music and journey, but as a result, any sort of intimacy or room to breathe feels gone. Butler’s performance is terrific but the only times we get to interact with Elvis as a real person (and not just as the musical legend he was) are when the movie uses incredibly cliche beats we’ve seen in plenty of other music biopics like Walk the Line, Rocketman, Respect, Straight Outta Compton, and so on. Moments such as Elvis getting his love for music, dealing with loss, rising to stardom and creating his greatest hits feel lost in the prestige Baz feels so insistent on — it’s a tiring assault on the senses with some questionable decisions, like including music by Doja Cat in a scene that’s set in 1950s Memphis? Some of the CGI and green-screen also feel unrealistic and break the illusion of an old-fashioned look.
Tom Hanks is still my favorite movie actor, but his character in this movie is such an odd, one-note character and showing lots of the film from his perspective just makes us feel farther from Elvis’ humanity. The movie is also very long and gets too boring before it makes a real emotional point. What’s really interesting to see from a story perspective is how Elvis brought black music to white audiences and forced the system to reckon with the integration of cultures. Though this aspect is really eye-opening, it’s a shame that it isn’t focused on for the latter parts of the movie as well. The film decides to simply throw everything at you that you don’t get enough to appreciate the moments that are beautiful, or feel that you’re with Elvis for enough time because of the film’s montage-like editing fashion.
Though Austin Butler is a powerhouse and perfectly captures the stage presence and livelihood of Presley, and the musical sequences are exciting and breathtakingly brought to life, Elvis is brought down by its surface-level character writing as well as its poor and overwhelming editing. Luhrmann cares very much about making his movies a spectacle, but how much is too much? If you’re an Elvis fan, watch it at home, but if I ever end up watching Elvis again, you’ll probably find me skipping right away to the music scenes and that’s it.