That’s not surprising, considering that director Baz Luhrmann created a similarly dazzling film with his “Moulin Rouge!”
With its eye-boggling images and turbo pace, the film pulses with the energy and the madness that was the life of The King.
I love the beginning of the movie, which parallels an iconic scene in “Citizen Kane.”
The story is narrated by Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks.) We see Parker as he seeks the Next Big Thing, and we watch his face – and the faces of Elvis Presley’s already-adoring fans – when Elvis hits the stage. “Without me, there would be no Elvis Presley,” Parker says.
Wisely, Luhrmann keeps the title character’s face turned away or in shadow until the show. Elvis (Austin Butler) sets the audience on fire with his gyrations, good looks and voice. (This is a glorious scene that deserves to be enjoyed on the big screen, as do many other sequences.)
Parker worms his way into Elvis’s life, becoming the singer’s mentor and, some would say, master.
Concerts, record deals and a stint in the U. S. Army lead to a series of movies. Then comes Vegas, drugs … and you probably know the rest, but that won’t stop you from being engaged with this film down to its very last musical note.
As Elvis’s life transitions, so does the United States. We watch his life unfold against a background of political/racial unrest and a changing society.
Music aficionados will appreciate how Elvis in his early years was influenced by Gospel music and the likes of Big Mama Thornton. This is a soundtrack that can’t be beat.
Austin Butler is magical as Elvis. There should be an Oscar nomination in Butler’s future.
Don’t go in expecting a documentary, because the movie takes some dramatic license here and there.
But do expect to see and hear a whirlwind tale of a musician whose legacy continues.
Long live The King.
3 ½ stars
Rated: PG-13 for foul language, drug abuse and sexual situations.
Running time: Two hours and 39 minutes.
At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; and Palms 10, Muscatine.
Watch the trailer here.