The Rock ‘n’ Roll Icon Gets A New Age Introduction

We’ve had Bohemian Rhapsody. We’ve seen Rocketman. There’s even a biopic for Judy Garland. Now, it’s time to celebrate the one and only “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” with the Elvis film. Get ready to rock along because we’re taking you on a ride as we explore the universe of Elvis Presley and how the music icon came to be.

Spoiler-free Elvis film synopsis

Elvis takes us on a journey from the singer’s humble beginnings, his rise to fame in the 1950s, and his complex relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker. The start of his music and acting career, his time in the army, and his romance with Priscilla Presley intertwine with major political moments and figures in history such as Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, and many more. Like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Elton John’s Rocketman, Elvis tells the story of how the icon came to be, but the film also uniquely stands on its own.

For a closer look at Elvis, check out our guide.

Director Baz Luhrmann loves the grandiose aesthetic

If you’ve seen Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby or Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes’ Romeo + Juliet, you’re probably aware of Baz Luhrmann’s larger-than-life, hyper-realism style. Elvis captures the same grandiose essence with fast-moving scenes, bright lights, and an ear-catching soundtrack. The soundtrack itself includes hits from Doja Cat, Diplo, Swae Lee, Stevie Nicks, Kacey Musgraves, and Jazmine Sullivan, among others. 

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Director/writer/producer BAZ LUHRMANN, OLIVIA DEJONGE and AUSTIN BUTLER on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release./ CREDIT: Kane Skennar © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

While it can be hard to stay focused at moments and feel a bit dizzying at others, the movie still manages to grab your attention at first glance and hurls you forward. Elvis had a big personality where people just gravitated toward him, his voice, and his movements (if you know what I mean). The only way to honor his legacy through a movie is to go to extreme levels — and that’s exactly what Baz did.

Austin Butler embodies Elvis, with the help of skilled makeup and swagger

The minute Austin Butler appeared on screen, I thought that Elvis was right in front of me. His hair was perfectly styled, his eyes were a dreamy blue, and his voice reverberated through the theater. Austin even had the Memphis southern drawl and the entrancing gyrations. I was about to jump out of my seat and scream like the audience of girls in the film. Unfortunately, this commitment to perfecting Elvis eventually landed Austin in the hospital. “My body just started shutting down the day after I finished Elvis,” he told GQ

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AUSTIN BUTLER as Elvis in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. / CREDIT: Hugh Stewart © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Although I don’t celebrate how filming eventually put him in the hospital, I do love his dedication to the role, and that his regular speaking voice still sounds like Elvis.

Along with Austin Butler, Tom Hanks plays the role of his manager Colonel Tom Parker. Serving as the narrator of the film, I was shocked to see that Tom looked unrecognizable as the Colonel. With the additions of prosthetics and lots of makeup, Tom Hanks almost plays the Colonel like an evil carnival caricature. In other settings, this portrayal may not work, but with Baz Luhrmann’s direction, it makes a lot of sense. 

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TOM HANKS as Colonel Tom Parker in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release./ CREDIT: Hugh Stewart © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Elvis combines nostalgia for fans with exciting introductions for new audiences

Although Elvis Presley soared at the height of his career before me or a lot of us were even born, his impact has made waves for generations.

Hollywood.com’s Alex Cox brought his 90-year-old grandmother, Aida, to an early screening of the movie. While Alex didn’t know much about the rock icon, Aida grew up listening to Elvis’ music and going to endless concerts.

“He was my favorite. Everybody loved him and his music was all over the world,” Aida reminisces. “I was very sad when the news came that he passed away. To see him back with the songs and all that. It was a beautiful job.”

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Aida struts her stuff at an early screening of Elvis / CREDIT: Alex Cox

On the other hand, the biopic introduced Alex to an in-depth analysis of the world and legacy of Elvis: his voice, the clothes, and his lyrics. In the film, the scene involving Elvis’s satellite concert stuck out the most to Alex. “It’s amazing how popular he really was,” he explains, “he changed pop culture.”

Simultaneously, Elvis was able to change the scope of music and pop culture with the help of R&B singers of the 1950s. We see odes to Big Mama Thorton (Shonka Dukureh) performing “Hound Dog” and Blues musician B.B King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) playing his rhythmic guitar riffs. While it reminds people where Elvis’s inspiration came from, the film raises the question of whether he got permission to record these songs originally done by R&B and soul performers. “I couldn’t gather if Elvis listened to the music and the artists allowed him to do it, or he sang different versions of it,” Alex says.

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(L-r) AUSTIN BUTLER as Elvis and KELVIN HARRISON JR. as B.B. King in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. / CREDIT: Kane Skennar © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Regardless, the Elvis movie brings together different generations, like Alex and Aida, by portraying the rock icon in a “cool new-age way.” It also allows for special, irreplaceable memories. Aida hadn’t stepped into a movie theater in over 30 years. For her, the film felt like a warm welcome back. “I was happy,” she says.

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Alex and Aida enjoy some quality time at “Elvis” screening / CREDIT: Alex Cox

Reliving milestones of your youth through a movie. How incredible is that?!

Movie-goers share their 2 cents about the Elvis film

Have you caught the “Burning Love” like millions of others have?

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