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AUSTIN BUTLER as Elvis in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
AUSTIN BUTLER as Elvis in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Culture > Entertainment

Elvis Has Left the Building: A Review of 2022’s Most Musical Movie

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Conn Coll chapter.

Six minutes. That’s how long my friend and I remained in the movie theater, even after the credits were done rolling. We didn’t know whether to laugh, or cry, or scream. We were essentially… dumbfounded. I wasn’t sure how long it had been since the last time I blinked. 

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis depicts the life of the acclaimed King of Rock and Roll, from his childhood inspirations and journey to music, to his residency at the International Hotel in Las Vegas and his death in 1977. The film received a 12-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, a feat that made the headlines almost instantly.   

I wasn’t a big Elvis Presley fan before watching this movie. I still don’t think I’m a big fan. Was I exclusively drawn into this movie because of Doja Cat’s musical contribution and Austin Butler’s face? Yes. 

However, I did come out of this experience with a newfound wonderment and appreciation for the singer’s life story, a spinning head, and a few new songs for my playlists. 

This is my second movie review (check out my thoughts on The Batman), and I’ve decided to use a similar scoring system based on five categories: plot, cast, soundtrack, characters, and visuals. Each category received a score out of 10, leaving 50 points in total to be earned. Then, I added and deducted points for other aspects of the film, as I saw fit. Does this system of ranking mean anything? Not really. Did I have fun making it? Of course. 

As always, there are spoilers ahead. 

Without further ado, here is my review of Elvis:

Plot: 4/10

The elements that made this movie enjoyable to watch were the visual effects and stellar acting. Take that shimmery gloss away, and the plot was pretty standard and predictable (it is mostly a true story after all). 

I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on young Elvis and the experiences that led him to his love of music, as well as the focus on the star’s relationship with his mother. His breakdown after her death was one of the most impactful points of the film in my opinion.

I wasn’t the biggest fan, however, of the overly glamorized depiction of Elvis’ life. Although all the major events were there, I noticed that the film failed to mention several of the controversies that plague his legacy, such as the true nature of his relationship with Priscilla and the drug use that may have ultimately led to his death. 

Although it may seem, on a surface level, that the movie did touch on Elvis’ exploitation of African American music and culture during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, I didn’t like that there was absolutely no attempt to condemn this appropriation. I mean, come on. It’s 2022, and it’s time to call out the major wrongs of the past, no matter how famous the celebrity was. 

Overall, the plot was easy to follow and carried the story of Elvis’ life quite nicely, but there were a few shortcomings I couldn’t overlook. 

Cast: 8/10

I’m scoring the casting so high for this movie due to the pretty indisputable fact that Austin Butler was the perfect choice to play Elvis. To be honest, I didn’t really understand the whole desperate screaming and grabbing thing that the singer’s female fans, in particular, are known for. That is, until Butler began his performance of “Trouble.” Then… I completely understood. 

Butler’s sex appeal, raw talent, and dedication to nailing every aspect of the Elvis character, made him, without a doubt, the best part of this movie. The videos that show his performance next to the real-life version only exacerbate the fact that he is spot on, down to Elvis’ sharp looks and quick footwork. The fact that the choreography was identical to the singer’s actual, mostly improvised moves was astounding, and I have no critiques on Butler’s ability to dance and sing just like the real King of Rock and Roll. 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Colonel Parker, although the outstanding makeup and costuming made him virtually unrecognizable. 

None of the other performances were very memorable, although I did enjoy the short moments we received of Shonka Dukureh’s Big Mama Thornton and Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s B. B. King. I definitely wish they had bigger parts in the overall movie. 

Soundtrack: 10/10

The soundtrack of this movie was perfect–and I take soundtracks very seriously. 

Austin Butler is credited with singing Elvis’ songs while portraying him as a young man. But as he ages, a blend of Butler and Elvis’ voices were used. The songs are classics that everyone knows, but there was a freshness that I definitely wasn’t expecting. 

Being a Baz Luhrmann movie, I shouldn’t have been surprised about the random medleys. The most notable in Elvis was the mashup of the classic song “Viva Las Vegas” with another classic: “Toxic” by Britney Spears. As an avid Britney fan, I realized what was happening right away, and I was shocked. It caught me completely off guard, and was probably the best surprise of the whole movie. It is a crime that this remix is not on any streaming services. 

Perhaps the best addition to the soundtrack, however, was Doja Cat’s “Vegas,” an incredibly well-lyric-ed rap sampled from Shonka Dukureh’s version of “Hound Dog.” It’s quick, it’s smart, it calls out men, and it was definitely one of the songs of the summer. The track deserved more than the few seconds it was granted in the actual movie. 

A few more bands and singers lent their talents to the soundtrack including Måneskin, Kacey Musgraves, and Stevie Nicks.

Characters: 6/10

One of the downsides of biopics is that very few characters get the development needed to institute them as real people in the viewer’s mind. 

Elvis’ character was written extremely well. I could feel his ups and downs, the growths and declines. He is the focus of this film, and received the development a star of such renown deserves. It truly felt like I was watching the real Elvis on screen. 

Similarly, Colonel Parker, who served as the narrator and “villain” of this story, had an adequate character arc. It is hard to establish the unreliable narrator trope in just a few hours of film, but his development came across successfully, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Watching this character and his actions sometimes made me feel sick–the kind of emotions that movies are supposed to provoke. 

None of the other characters had storylines that brought them out of the territory of “flat.” We were never truly able to see inside Priscilla’s head, beyond the occasional jealous look, so the scene where she leaves Elvis seems a bit jumpy and confusing. Elvis’ parents play a large role in the film, but don’t get more than a few minutes of screentime, making it hard to grasp their emotions. Everyone besides Elvis and the Colonel only seem to exist to further the conflict between star and manager. I would have loved to hear a bit more from the other characters.

Visuals: 8/10

Baz Luhrmann absolutely delivered with his characteristic visuals–I could hardly tear my eyes away. The colors were gorgeous with the red and gold Vegas theme making a constant appearance. Every scene was pleasing to the eye. That is, once the screen stopped spinning. 

Although the constant cuts do an outstanding job of keeping the audience’s attention, the dramatic spinning, aerial zooms, and jumps were a bit overwhelming. By the end, my head was pounding, not out of pain, but simply due to overstimulation. However, I’m afraid that was kind of the point.

The uses of contrast between performance scenes and personal scenes in terms of colors and aesthetics were artistically well done, and despite all the jumps, I was able to follow the story easily. Overall, the film was pleasing to watch on a different level than most recent films. 

Additions/Deductions:

Here are some out-of-context bonus points and deductions that I feel are essential to my scoring:

-6 points for the six minutes it took me to recover

+2 points for the pink suit

-1 point for all of the closeups 

+1 point for the real hound dog humiliation scene, since I forgot that actually happened

-3 points for “I didn’t kill him. I made Elvis Presley.”

+2 points for the dudes that orchestrated the ‘68 Comeback Special

-2 points for all of the carnival scenes

+5 points for the added fuel to the conspiracy that Elvis is still alive

My score totals to 34/50 or 68%. As a harsh critic, I think this is a mildly good score. Of course, there is a lot of room for improvement. 

Although I am still super unsure how I feel about this movie, I would recommend it to any fan of Elvis’ music who wants to experience what it’s like to be spinning through Vegas for a few hours. Or, if you want to see Austin Butler give the performance of a lifetime. 

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Elvis quotes:

“Do something worth remembering.”

Elvis Presley

Lara is a senior at Connecticut College, where she is pursuing a double major in environmental studies and economics with a minor in dance. Her interests include choreography, sustainability, the performing arts, and conservation.