Elemental - Movie Content Review

Elemental - Movie Content Review - Picture of Wade and Ember holding each other

Desperate to save her father's business from government incompetence,  Ember the fire elemental teams up with Wade the water elemental.  The two polar opposites navigate racial differences, racism, stereotypes, and eventually interracial love.

This content review will contain spoilers when they are relevant.

This page contains affiliate links that earn me a small commission. They don't cost you anything. Their presence/absence doesn't effect the quality of this Content Review. Please see the Disclosures Page to learn more.


Elemental focuses heavily on race and immigrants.  Ember's father and mother were one of the first fire elementals to immigrate to Elemental City.  When the employee processing their immigration papers can't understand their given fire elemental names, he gives them the names Bernie and Cinder instead.  However, the city wasn't built with fire elementals in mind, and after a lot of rejection Bernie eventually finds an abandoned building for them to move into.  Since he is a hard working first generation immigrant, Bernie turns the building into a magnificent family run store based on their fire culture.  Over the years a fire immigrant community forms around the store, where it has become a cornerstone of their community.  Additionally, Bernie himself still speaks with partially broken English; just enough to get the point across but not too much that it confuses children.

Bernie is racist towards water elementals; he doesn't trust them and he doesn't like them.  Presumably this comes from water's ability to kill fire elementals.  On the other hand, the movie has a scene where Bernie and young Ember are turned away from a flower exhibit simply for being fire people.  It's also made very clear from the public transportation's canals splashing water everywhere that the city wasn't built with fire elementals in mind.  At the end of the movie Bernie learns he was wrong about Wade, but it's not clear until the credits that he's no longer racist. 

Wade is presented as a weak male who gives up easily and is wrought with indecision.  Additionally, his major defining characteristic is that he's constantly crying about everything little thing; this appears to also be a character trait of his family (or perhaps water people in general).  Additionally, when Ember meets Wade's family for the first time they spout off a few stereotypes that Ember corrects, leaving them feeling embarrassed. 

The movie quickly establishes that Ember has anger issues, typically brought on by annoying customers, and they lead to outbursts where she lets out a loud and powerful radial blast of fire.  This is a great visual representation of unacceptably "blowing up" with anger.  Later in the movie she determines the anger is her subconscious's way of revealing that she doesn't want to run her dad's store.  She feels that she must follow in his footsteps and run the store as a repayment for all of his sacrifices and hard work he put into building it.  However, at the end of the movie Bernie tells her it's ok to pursue her dreams and he'll get someone else to run his store when he retires.  Her anger is ignored, because the situation that was making her angry was changed.  So the movie took an excellent opportunity for a lesson about managing your anger and instead imparted the terrible lesson that anger isn't your fault and it's actually ok to blow up.

Finally, Elemental has a familiar Disney message that essentially true love finds a way.  Despite being different races, Ember and Wade fall in love.  They navigate both of their family's stereotypes, Bernie's racism, and cultural differences.  Their most complex hurdle is the fact that water extinguishes fire and fire evaporates water, meaning they can never touch and therefore it's not worth loving each other.  The entire movie establishes this fact many times, including Cinder accidentally getting partially extinguished by a water man early in the movie, but somehow through Disney true love magic, when they actually do touch it's just fine and nothing bad happens.


Elemental - Language - Picture of Ember trying to hold in her anger by holding her mouth


There's no traditional swearing in this movie; however many things are said in the native tongue of the fire people, some during times of great emotion, so they may be representing swears.

Elemental - Fears - Picture of Cinder and Bernie scared


As expected in a movie with fire people, fire is prevalent.  However, the fire is never presented in a scary way.

When Ember has an outburst of anger in the basement of her family's store, she breaks the water pipes and Wade accidentally spills out.  While he is in the basement Wade realizes their store is in violation of city laws, so he starts writing tickets and Ember chases him out of the store.

After firmly establishing that water can kill fire people, Ember willingly risks a trip underwater inside of a bubble for a once in a lifetime experience.  As expected, this risky decision leads to a life and death situation that she narrowly escapes from thanks to Wade.

There's no storms, scary monsters, clowns, scary darkness, or kidnapping.  There's also no traditional villains in this movie (see Other Content for more info).

Elemental - Family & Relationships - Picture of Ember with Wade's family

Family & Relationships

Elemental is a love story between Ember and Wade.  They slowly fall in love, go on dates, hold hands, meet each other's parents, briefly break up, and eventually kiss.  Due to her father's racism, Ember also lies to her parents about Wade and sneaks out to meet him on several occasions.

Ember's dad is aging, which is represented on screen by coughing and getting weak, and the movie lets you believe that he could die at any time.  Wade's discusses how he's been depressed ever since his dad died, and on several occasions he encourages Ember to tell the truth to her father and to appreciate the time he has left.  One brief lighthearted scene shows Ember's grandmother on her death bed, then vanishing into a puff of smoke.

Elemental includes several hidden sexual innuendos.  In one scene Ember and Wade see two tree elementals in their home picking each other's apples and giggling.  When the tree elementals notice they're being watched, they get embarrassed and say there's nothing weird going on, they're just pruning.  Ember and Wade briefly respond with blank stares before bursting into laughter.  When a young tree elemental is hitting on Ember she tells him her father wouldn't approve of his presence, to which the character replies "he doesn't like my manscaping?" while brushing his grassy hair and drawing out the word manscaping.  Cinder uses a water bottle to spritze a kissing fire couple and tells them to save it for the wedding; later in the credits she spritzes another kissing couple.  When Ember is leaving for a new job, Bernie says he and Cinder will have more time for hanky panky, then Cinder elbows him.  In the credits a female water elemental kisses a male tree elemental, the water elemental starts dripping on the tree elemental, and then the tree elemental's tree grows very large.

There's no divorce, running away, or bullying.

Elemental - Other Content - Picture of Wade crying with a picture of him being sad

Other Content

Elemental takes place in a magical world filled with fire, water, tree, and cloud elementals.  Their methods of transportation, food, and housing are all equally as magical while still having a semblance of reality.

Elemental primarily focuses on the emotions of Ember's anger, Wade's sadness, and their love for each other.  At times these emotions are passed on to the viewer.

Ember's mother has a side business where she tells fire elemental couples if they have true love.  They light insence and she "reads the smoke", along with smelling the smoke and love.  The movie represents this as a culturally based spiritual ritual.  Additionally, Ember's family keeps a blue flame that they pray to and draw strength from.

Surprisingly, the villain of the movie is government incompetence.  A combination of several governmental design, planning, and maintenance failures leads to Bernie's store being inundated with water.  This sends Ember on a quest to get the government to fix the issue, but she runs into repeated road blocks created by government workers that portray common negative streotypes.  Eventually Ember becomes so frustrated with the government that she ends up taking matters into her own hands.

When introducing his family, Wade says "that's my little sib[ling] Lake and her girlfriend Gibly".  Both characters are briefly in other following scenes, including once where they're holding each other by the arm.  Parents that like to skip scenes could skip Wade's introduction of his sister and their children would assume Gibly and Wake are just Wade's siblings. 

There's no strong violence, time travel, or evolution.

Elemental - Movie Content Review - Picture of Wade and Ember holding each other


Elemental is an aesthetically beautiful movie with a mediocre story and many messages.  Unfortunately, one of those messages reinforces bad behavior and the inclusion of sexual innuendos plus a brief appearance of an LGBT character makes the movie more geared towards an adult audience.

No comments

Post a Comment