It's been several decades since Elvis Presley left the building, but now the "King of Rock and Roll" has returned in this bold and flashy biopic sharing the story of one of the most noticeable musicians of all time. Whether warranted or not, this biopic embodies director Baz Luhrmann's distinct style, which is certainly flashier than ever. Even though the film possesses a strong visual fascination, it fails to possess true direction or an honorable storyline of the famous musician.
Starring the vehemently undervalued Austin Butler as the "King" himself, Elvis showcases not only the boundary-breaking talents of Elvis Presley, but the real, mesmerizing talents of the actor who portrays him.
Kudos to Butler for taking on an incredibly difficult role; it is by far his most notable performance to date and he embodies the King so convincingly. His dedication to the role is extremely admirable; in some of the early songs in the film, it is almost unnoticeable that Butler is actually singing. He is one of the main reasons to see this film, and he swiftly wiggles and dances right into the viewer's heart. His convincing performance will not be overlooked as one of the year's best so far, for recognition is undeniably deserved.
Through the film's long runtime of two and a half hours, it is incredibly fast-paced from start to finish. Though reasonably, since it is a biopic about Elvis's career, there is a lot of ground to cover and several moments worth mentioning.
To do so, the film contains an egregious amount of montages. Heavily edited and extremely flashy, these montages just keep coming, which starts to become painful for audiences. It's fair to say that the editing team deserves just as much recognition as the main star, having to splice together montage after montage.
Not enough ground is honestly covered though, as most of the film is overtaken by Tom Hanks' role as Elvis's selfish manager, Colonel Tom Parker. By inserting him as the narrator and making his plotline very upfront, the film fails to give the King a true, honorable spotlight despite the movie having a long runtime with enough space to fit a better narrative. As the narrator, Hank's character tries to justify his horrendous actions by blaming the audience for the death of Elvis Presley, which obviously doesn't grant enough sense.
The film does try to have this overall theme that love is what truly killed the King, but it's evident that the direction it was trying to go in is not dwelled on enough. It's usual for biopics to have a general, moving theme to go along with the chronological events of the musician's career, but as this film paces through the events of the musician rather quickly, there is really no time to establish a general theme nor be truly impacted by one.
Perhaps with all of the history it has to cover within his career, the movie would have translated better by being a television show, especially after Luhrmann established that the film's original cut is four hours long. That way, some ideas that were glossed over or missed out entirely could have had their moment to shine. Plus, a more righteous direction and theme could be established instead of the main plotline of Elvis's maniacal manager overshadowing the musician's actual life story.
Though a biopic of the King of Rock and Roll is slightly warranted, having a massive amount of success and influence in the music industry, his impact simply does not seem to draw younger audiences into the theaters. It has become apparent that most younger audiences have seen Presley as problematic due to his controversial past. Things like his criminal record and the fact that he got most of his music from his Black predecessors are completely and unsurprisingly ignored throughout the film. Not to say that the film presents him as an unflawed hero, it's just that most of his crucial flaws aren't shown, which is yet another aspect the film glosses over.
In addition, the love story between Elvis and his wife Priscilla is severely swept over, as well as the fact that when they met, she was 14 and he was 24. But of course, the film wouldn't want to bring up the worst mistakes of the protagonist at stake, thus making many questions the warranty of this film being produced.
All in all, the film is trying to be attractive to the main eye but focuses too heavily on its style, failing to give it a substantial direction or theme. The only thing attractive is Butler's performance, which is the only viable reason to view the film in its entirety. Though a spectacle and this summer's next blockbuster hit, Elvis truly never re-enters the building in a movie that is supposed to be honoring a legacy, both good and bad.