‘Elvis’: The man, the myth, the King of Rock and Roll


Warner Bros. Pictures

By Nina Figurelli, Arts and Entertainment Editor

From his iconic wardrobe to the tacky merchandise, everyone has heard the name Elvis Presley. The new movie “Elvis” shows the glamorous yet equally pitiful life of the legendary superstar told from the perspective of the man who would cause his ultimate downfall: Thomas Parker, also known as the Colonel.

“Elvis” follows the most sensationalized and integral events of Elvis’s life while also illustrating how the Colonel thrived on Elvis’s vulnerability.

The film starts by introducing the Colonel (Tom Hanks), who was Elvis Presley’s manager for over 20 years. He promotes himself as a clean, good and wholesome businessman who made Elvis (Austin Butler) famous, and bitterly reflects on his own tarnished reputation. Throughout the movie, the Colonel is trying to manipulate the audience while simultaneously showing us that he psychologically abused and blackmailed Elvis.

The first time Elvis performs in front of a live audience we get to see the most important aspect of his career: the impact he had on his fans and the music industry. 

His music and dance style were inspired by the Black artists and Black culture that he grew up around. By popularizing the rock and roll genre, Elvis destigmatized the music that was ignorantly stereotyped as “promiscuous” and directly triggered the counterculture of the 1960s that brought Black media to the forefront of pop culture. 

As someone who didn’t grow up during his time, I found it interesting to see how much Elvis was idolized. I always knew that he was an acclaimed musician, but I never realized how influential he is, and not to mention, how much turmoil he faced in his personal life.

When Elvis’s mother, Gladys Presley (Helen Thomson), passes away, we get a glimpse into both Elvis’s instability and the Colonel’s rapacity. This is yet another example of the Colonel taking advantage of Elvis at a point of weakness. The Colonel is constantly creating an image of himself as a savior and even as Elvis’s shoulder to lean on.

Soon after his mother’s death, Elvis’s controversial style catches up with him, and he is pressured to join the army and become a “clean cut American boy.” During his deployment in Germany, he meets Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge), his future wife.

There was a missed opportunity in this film to showcase more of Priscilla’s point of view. She sacrificed a lot for Elvis; in fact, she sacrificed her chance to have a normal family. I understand that the purpose of “Elvis” was to be about Elvis, but at the end of the day, Priscilla may have been the only person who cared for him for more than just his lavish lifestyle and money — even his own father, Vernon Presley (Richard Roxburgh), prioritized wealth and fame over his son’s well being.

The rest of the movie depicts the rocky roads of Elvis’s career, leading up to, ultimately, his death. Elvis was a naive young man who rose to fame quickly with little to no support; he was an easy target for money hungry men like the Colonel. There were multiple instances where Elvis tried firing the Colonel, but he was sadly either coerced or blackmailed into staying in their contract.

As the movie progressed, it was interesting how the Colonel’s narration evolved and intertwined with Elvis’s life. It really isn’t until the end of the movie that we notice how the Colonel’s manipulation influenced the darkest moments in Elvis’s career and death.

Although I wish we could have seen more of Priscilla, “Elvis” proved to be a phenomenal movie about an astounding legacy. It was a lengthy movie at a solid 2 hours and 39 minutes, but it felt like I was watching a trailer. Elvis’s life, quite literally, flashed before my eyes, and I was kept on the edge of my seat. Coming from someone who didn’t grow up in the generation of Elvis, after watching this film, I finally understand the true greatness of the King of Rock and Roll.

Not only were the cinematography and costuming breathtaking, but the casting was spot on. Austin Butler fit the role perfectly, and most certainly did Elvis justice. After seeing “Elvis” I immediately searched up footage from one of his concerts, and his dancing, his singing and even his voice were replicated exactly. 

I would be surprised if “Elvis” wasn’t at least nominated for an Oscar. This film is most definitely award-winning material.

And with that being said, Elvis has left the building.