First Responses To Trailer For Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis"
Okay, let's break this down. I just came across a trailer for a Baz Luhrmann movie about Elvis that is supposed to come out this summer. Other than this trailer, I have not heard a single thing about this.
1. The world does not need one more minute of filmed entertainment or documentary about Elvis Presley. Nobody asked for this. Why is this here? Even so, now that a genius has proposed it, attention must be paid.
2. Baz Luhrmann is a genius the same way that people like Syd Barrett or Bob Fosse were geniuses: when it doesn't work out, you can't imagine what they were thinking but when it does work out, you can't imagine how the universe existed without them.
3. Tom Hanks is probably the most-loved American actor alive right now. He's proven himself every which way a dozen times already, even with risky roles. This might be the time in his career when he brushes past risky or edgy and begins taking on reckless roles. Based on these few seconds, that makeup and accent suggest this might be that kind of move.
4. Getting Col. Tom Parker "right" isn't a thing anyone should try to do. He's the sort of historically immense person whose meaning or soul simply isn't definable in a single performance. Playing him in a straightforward movie would require a lot of calculation, and playing him in whatever pandemonium Luhrmann has in mind must be even more difficult.This is the movie Tom Hanks was filming when he contracted COVID.
5. This Elvis has the uncanny energy of a deepfake version of Elvis as an emo spinoff from a guyliner boyband who turned sexy vampire, and I mean that in the best way possible. Austin Butler (familiar from playing Manson cultist Tex Watson in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and as a frequently-shirtless elf in The Shannara Chronicles) wasn't even born until many years after Elvis died and probably can't understand the whole Elvis phenomenon, but, based on these clips, he has certainly studied on it. There's not enough here to indicate whether he will be able to help his generation get what all the fuss was about.
6. The intimations that this movie might directly address Elvis' role in ripping off Black musicians is worrisome. The cast list features B.B. King, Little Richard, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe which is of course wonderful if those legends are fairly presented — but only if. A racially-charged story that easy to get wrong probably shouldn't be attempted in 2022 by older white filmmakers, so we shall have to see where this goes.
7. In order for this to be fun, Luhrmann might need to use the full-tilt cinematic chaos that marked his biggest movies. If he plays any of it safe, then it might be doomed. This will be the first feature film he has directed since the (slightly) more straightforward The Great Gatsby in 2013 and only his career sixth. After becoming the wunderkind of his day with dazzling, over-the-top, gleefully weird Strictly Ballroom (1992), Romeo + Juliet (1996), and Moulin Rouge! (2001), his single dud was the little seen Australia from 2008.
– J.F. "Jeff" McCullers