Director Baz Luhrmann’s stylish and energetic homage to the King of Rock and Roll moves to home entertainment players and gets an added jolt in the ultra-high definition disc format with Elvis (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 108 minutes, $49.95).
Mr. Luhrmann places Elvis Aaron Presley (Austin Butler) in a dark musical fantasy played out through the perspective of his unscrupulous manager Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks in a fat suit).
Obsessed with transforming country and the blues, Elvis accepts help from this gluttonous goblin king who eventually takes control of his life and helps lead to his ultimate destruction.
OK, I’m being a bit dramatic here, but seriously, the dynamic presentation mixes in a frenetic music video style to capture moments featuring larger-than-life heroes and villains. It’s certainly a style that a viewer would never find in the typical biography movie.
The director breaks conventional form often, for example, by adding a sequential art sequence of Elvis early days and his love of Captain Marvel Jr. or the consistent intrusion of textured pop art title overlays or using multiple split-screens from different time periods.
That’s not bad, it’s actually pretty cool, just think of an Oliver Stone conspiracy film on LSD at points.
The movie does cover major points in Elvis’ career, often fictionalized, and includes the singer being forced to tame down his act when singing “Hound Dog” to a dog on “The Steve Allen Show”; the 1956 riotous charity concert at Russword Park; his meeting and marriage to Priscilla (Olivia DeJong) during his stint the Army; and his amazing 1968 comeback special.
Of course, the epic event also covers the musical legacy of Elvis and his contemporaries. Besides the King belting out songs such as the classic “Trouble,” “If I Can Dream,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” we also get “That’s All Right” from Arthur Crudup (Gary Clarke Jr.), “Tutti Frutti” from Little Richard (Alton Mason) and “Hound Dog” from Big Mama Thornton (the late Shonka Dukureh).
Mr. Luhrmann’s “Elvis” shines mainly due to Mr. Butler’s immersive performance. He will leave many hard-core fans fondly remembering the days when Elvis ruled the world.
4K in action: An eye-catching opening with a massive Elvis belt buckle encrusted with jewels and gold transforming into the Warner Bros. logo bursts with near three dimensionality from the screen signaling viewers are in for an eye popping treat.
The visual energy throughout excels within a 2160p presentation culled from 4K digital roots and packed with high dynamic range saturation.
Expect many a moment of candy-coated appeal highlighting the director and cinematographer Mandy Walker’s pop culture sensibilities.
As referenced above, they take us into a comic book version of Elvis’ early years, or playing with title sequences (all hue-soaked), or examining a moment with the singer sitting behind the Hollywood sign that morphs into a color blast of the NBC logo.
More detail can be found in the massive gold curtain of the International Hotel, and Elvis in a shiny leather outfit with a bright red backdrop and punctuated with his wearing of a cherry-red guitar.
Yeah, color often reigns supreme, be it with his pink and purple Cadillacs, satin blue pajamas or the incredible array of Elvis leather jumpsuits with the studded capes.
Best extras: The included Blu-ray disc contains a standard collection of production featurettes.
The four segments, roughly 45 minutes in total, start with a general overview featuring the director, Mr. Butler and Mr. Hanks as well as designers chock full of information and enhanced with plenty of back-patting.
The remaining trio cover recreating Elvis and the music as explored by Mr. Butler (with examples of his crafting his voice) and music producer Elliot Wheeler; a focus on costumes with designer Catherine Martin; and the production designers explaining the various recreations of locations (many built in Australia) including a 1950s Beale Street in Memphis, various iterations of Graceland and the International Hotel.
A final extra of note, for the pure music fans, is the immediate access to the 19 songs highlighted in the film.