Elvis movie review: A bold biopic that falls flat

Austin Butler in 2022 film Elvis, in theaters June 24, Warner Brothers
Austin Butler in 2022 film Elvis, in theaters June 24, Warner Brothers /

Baz Luhrmann’s return to filmmaking has culminated in Elvis, a biopic giving audiences the chance to relive the life of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Lurhmann has already given a period piece, a fresh take. Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet are examples of movies in his filmography that intentionally go over the top, but feel modern. Elvis is no exception. Luhrmann dazzles audiences with modern hip-hop, modern effects, and a fuse of styles that make the film feel both dated and modern in the same breath.

I went into this movie strictly for Austin Butler, who portrays Elvis. I had seen Butler in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood only, but the hype for this performance was palpable. Butler’s tour of the press circuit has proved his dedication to the role and admiration for Elvis’ prominence in the culture. He clearly chose to embody the role. Butler did not disappoint and in fact, I’ll be surprised come Awards Season if he isn’t in the Best Actor conversation.

Spoiler alert! This review does contain spoilers.

Elvis seeks to cover a lot of ground and very quickly

As the title of the article suggests, ultimately, I was not a fan of this flick. The movie’s nearly 3 hour runtime covers Elvis’ entire life, from cradle to grave (as many biopics do). However, the audience barely has time to grasp hold of characters and let their development take place. The cuts are so frequent and frenetic, that the viewing experience felt like a fever dream. The plot is formulaic, so audiences can experience a familiar setting, but for me it felt far too predictable, even for someone not entirely acquainted with Elvis Presley’s life story.

The only trick that the energy accomplishes is portraying Elvis’ meteoric rise to fame and eventual fall. The blending of styles also amused me. Varying title cards, location markers, and shots from the movie itself were interesting and brought even more life to the movie (that probably didn’t require more excess), but to me this felt like Luhrmann trying to do too much.

The performances varied, but Austin Butler shined as Elvis

Tom Hanks plays Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and seems miscast. Hanks doesn’t captivate on screen like normal in this movie, and his character seems far too unnecessary to the plot, but he is the central figure. It seems more like a Colonel Tom Parker movie to me than an Elvis movie. The movie is told through the lens of Parker’s perspective and less focused on one of the biggest pop culture legends ever. And again, the other characters feel woefully underdeveloped, that’s it hard to even grade their performances without knowing their backstory.

On the other hand, Austin Butler knocked it out of the park. He channels Elvis in a way I haven’t seen in a musical biopic recently. I think Taron Egerton comes close for portraying Elton John, but Austin Butler has all of the recent actors beat. He brings the proper amount of bravado, stage presence, and imitation. My hope is that Butler becomes a movie star, because he has serious chops as an actor.

I’m certainly in the minority with my feelings about the movie, because audiences loved Elvis. Even critics have given the film a fairly warm reception. It just felt like a whiplash experience. It’s hard to describe, but I haven’t felt bored and overwhelmed at the same time while watching a movie in the theater like I did here. With that being said, I would still recommend this movie. Austin Butler’s performance is worth watching, as we may be witnessing the birth of a new great actor and the film certainly is a spectacle, and therefore should be watched in the theater.

Knowing that Elvis won’t hit streaming until at least August, now is the time to see it in theaters.

My score: 5.9/10

dark. Next. Best shows coming out in June