The recent movie “Elvis” just explodes upon the screen, and I felt like I was in a Formula 1 car racing from one scene to the next, watching Elvis Presley rocket into fame. It is an amazing film using animation and regular filming to make you feel like you are watching a series of postcards or a moving comic book. It is also dreamlike…almost nightmarish at teams as you watch a really nice guy like Elvis Presley decay and descend.
I cannot remember a time when I did not know about Elvis Presley. My mother, being from Mississippi, was proud that he was from Tupelo. And when I saw the scenes of people being shocked at his gyrations, I could hear my mother retelling the tales of how her Sunday School class was shocked at this new singer’s behavior. This film, even though it takes some historical license as all films do, definitely nails how Elvis just burst upon the music scene and changed America forever.
I would like to add that without a doubt Tom Hanks is the greatest actor of all time. Here is a man who can make me believe for just a minute that he is actually Walt Disney or Fred Rogers, or Captain Sully, or a World War 2 soldier or sailor. And here he is as Colonel Tom Parker, the con artist who made Elvis, ruled Elvis, and destroyed him. Austin Butler portrays Elvis and is very convincing in his looks, acting, and singing.
As I was watching the film I kept thinking of three different authors. First, Franz Kafka is known for creating dreamlike, nightmarish surreal scenes in his work (e.g. “The Metamorphosis”). Then I thought of Goethe and his book “Faust” in which the hero makes a deal with the devil. Colonel Parker comes across very clearly as the modern incarnation of Mephistopheles. Finally, I thought of Shakespeare. In his tragedies, the main character has just a small flaw in his personality. But his hubris continues to grow and grow until finally that fatal flaw consumes him.
That is what I saw in the movie “Elvis.” Superb acting, great story, amazing cinematography, but in the end it’s the true story of a nice guy with incredible talent who is consumed by his own success and lack of self control. God is always on the fringe of his life (in this film), but never at the center. And as Elvis is glorified, he disintegrates.
Everyone loses in the film. Elvis loses his wife and eventually his life. Colonel Parker loses Elvis and his income and is doomed to wander casinos. Priscilla Presley loses her husband. And we all lost one of the greatest vocal artists of all time…way too soon.
But the movie is worthwhile. Don’t waste your time watching all the stupid (and sometimes immoral) advertisements for upcoming attractions. Get there right before it starts, and enjoy a great story well told. Enjoy seeing on the silver screen Elvis Presley singing once again.