There can only be one. Much like Jesus as the Messiah laid the foundation for Christianity, one opened the gates to black music and has influenced all styles of music to this day, Elvis Presley.
He was handsome, he was wild, shy, talented, and he was a lot more. His voice still goes deep into the heart. It does even more so when you know the story of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Elvis was a god, an exceptional phenomenon, a person who was looking for love, broke on it, and left us far too early.
I was just a very young boy. But I still remember August 16, 1977, very clearly. It was the day the world stood still for a moment when the news was announced that Elvis Presley had left the stage of life forever at the age of just 42 years. My mother mourned as if a family member had died. And the whole world mourned as well.
In the 45 years since Elvis’ death, his home, Graceland, has become a place of pilgrimage for fans from around the world. And, of course, the story of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll has been filmed countless times.
Also, it’s safe to say that Elvis invented merchandising. At least there was hardly anything on which his likeness was not shown until today.
Howsoever, only die-hard Elvis fans know that it was not Elvis himself who was behind this commercial machine, but his manager Colonel Tom Parker. Now, this side of Elvis’ life, the partnership with Colonel Parker, is brought to the big screen.
The story of the film begins in the youth of the future superstar. During this time, Elvis is strongly influenced by the black music of the southern states. What many people still struggle with today is completely normal for Elvis as a boy in the forties of the last century. For him, there are no differences based on skin color or religion. On the contrary, the slight boy from Mississippi feels strongly drawn to the black community, especially their music.
It’s a time when television is still in its infancy. Records and radio bring news and music to people. And when they hear the first recordings of Elvis Presley, many think it must be a black artist. His voice is so warm and voluminous.
The moderately successful Dutch music promoter Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk, later known as Colonel Parker, sees this as his great opportunity. He becomes Elvis’ manager. No doubt he’s helping the Mississippi talent find fame. What is more important to him, Elvis, or his personal advantage is shown in Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis in haunting, often very emotional images.
THE STARS ONSTAGE
ELVIS PRESLEY AKA AUSTIN BUTLER
We don’t need to say too many words about Elvis the Pelvis. For that, let’s take a closer look at Austin Butler. We know the handsome American actor as James Wilkerson, or just Wilke, from the TV series: Switched at Birth.
Social media fans surely also know him because of his relationship with Vanessa Hudgens. There also seem to be some parallels to Elvis in real life. Because this year, Austin Butler was spotted on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival with the beautiful model Kaia Gerber. The daughter of one of the greatest top models of all time, Cindy Crawford, was not only able to win the heart of the Elvis star. In fact, she recently landed the lead role in the new season of American Horror Story.
Austin really does look a bit like young Elvis. Of course, there would have been better copies of the later King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. They probably could have sung well but probably acted less authentically. Because Austin totally embraced his role. Moreover, he literally merges with Elvis.
His devotion eventually led to him being hospitalized after filming. Because he was so committed to his role. With his look and personality, he also creates a modern image of the King that should appeal to the younger generation who don’t know the music and history of the original that well.
COLONEL PARKER AKA TOM HANKS
The movie Elvis could actually be named after Colonel Parker. Because it portrays the story of the unscrupulous manager very intensively. Once illegally fleeing the Netherlands, Colonel Parker was never able to leave the United States. Because he had never been officially registered.
Perhaps for this reason, but many others, commercial and self-centered, he is preventing Elvis from realizing his dream of a major world tour. Instead, Parker turns Presley into a money-printing puppet. Parker is never concerned with art, but only with material gain. Therefore, Elvis also paints a very dark picture of the music industry, which is still valid in many cases today.
Finally! It was really hard to digest that Tom Hanks, like Denzel Washington, has only embodied the do-gooder in recent years. An actor has to show facets. Now, finally, Hanks slips into the role of the Colonel’s dubious personality. It’s even said that he was responsible for the death of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
And Tom Hanks surrenders to this role as well as all those in which he was allowed to play the good guy. Ok, he can also hide behind a grandiose mask. Through it, Hanks is hardly recognizable. So, he transforms even more into the nasty Colonel Parker. So we accept the nasty manipulation that his character does with Elvis.
PRISCILLA PRESLEY AKA OLIVIA DEJONGE
Elvis loves music. However, he loves his wife, the beautiful Priscilla, even more. He meets the young girl during his military service in Germany. The daughter of an Air Force officer stationed in Germany quickly turns the sensitive Elvis’ head. Maybe she succeeds because she reminds Elvis a little of his mother.
In any case, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll experiences his best years with Priscilla. Perhaps the two, and ultimately his daughter Lisa Marie, could have been happy. However, there are Elvis’ career and Colonel Parker. Like a vampire, Parker drains Elvis’ energy. So the King needs more and more chemicals to withstand the pressure and stress. Of course, as a result, the relationship with his beloved Priscilla suffers massively.
So far, Olivia DeJonge has primarily attracted attention through horror films and Kimis. The pretty Australian plays the young and older Priscilla in Elvis with sensitivity. She gives her character self-confidence and strength. Certainly, it should please the real Priscilla Presley.
FAMILY & FELLOWS
Of course, Elvis’ mother Gladys (Helen Thomson), and his father Vernon (Richard Roxburgh), also appear in other roles. Musical companions are also there. For example, B. B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), Little Richard (Alton Mason), or Jimmie Rodgers Snow (Kodi Smit-McPhee), just to mention a few.
BAZ LUHRMANN (ALL IN ONE)
Not only two of the supporting actors come from Australia. Baz Luhrmann is also a native Australian. As a writer, he has already proven that he is very familiar with the music genre and great dramas with films such as Australia, Moulin Rouge, William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and The Great Gatsby.
ELVIS – THE REVIEW
Regardless of whether you are an Elvis fan or not, you will like the film. As powerful as Elvis’ music is to this day, the pictures that the film shows are just as energetic. On the one hand, rich colors reflect the glamorous life of the King of Rock’n’Roll. On the other hand, cold pictures show the downside of the fame of exceptional talent.
Of course, such a firework of images has its price. And so some scenes are just over the top. They seem too constructed and posed. In addition, the actors do not always succeed in performing at the same high level. As is often the case in autobiographical films, facts from the main character’s life are strung together in bulk.
In 2019, the biographical musical drama film “Rocketman” proved that it’s possible to create a great story despite its enormous complexity. Then, Matthew Vaughn and Taron Egerton told the story of Elton John in a very poignant, emotional way.
Unfortunately, the film Elvis rarely offers deep emotions. So I couldn’t understand Elvis’s immense sadness when his mother died, nor the inner turmoil that his career created. It was the same regarding the breakup with Priscilla. These moments were crucial triggers in Elvis’ life. That’s why I would have wished to see and feel more passion, depth, and emotions.
THE SOUND & MUSIC
The film entertains. Yes. And Luhrmann knows how to captivate the audience. We experience the ups and downs of the King of Rock’n’Roll in an informative and entertaining way. Apart from the impressive pictures, we are carried away by the great music. Not only the Elvis classics but also the jazz and gospel songs are mixed perfectly and extremely dynamically.
Unlike the dialogues… In the version presented to us, they were partially drowned out by the music. In some sequences, they were incomprehensible to me. But it could be caused by my ears. However, the film doesn’t necessarily shine through innovative dialogues or an outstanding acting performance. Sometimes less is more.
Nonetheless, this criticism is at a very high level. After all, the film has to be measured against the legacy of the King of Rock’n’Roll. No matter whether you have prior knowledge or not, the film entertains at a high level and offers exciting moments. Literally, in the end, Elvis is a film that is well worth seeing. More precisely, in the end, the movie unleashes all those emotions that I have missed before. The ending moved me deeply. So Elvis is a worthy and important tribute to the King of Rock’n’Roll. It makes his legacy accessible to the new generation. Furthermore, the film proves that Elvis is alive. At least in our hearts.
So we give a hearty 7,5 points.
Text & Layout made with love for Elvis by Marco Kokkot
Pictures: Warner Bros. Pictures 2022. All rights reserved.