Elvis – The DVDfever Review – Austin Butler, Tom Hanks


Elvis… Elvis Presley, that is… in case you were thinking this was a biopic about Mr Costello, aka Declan McManus.

However, this Baz Luhrmann spectacle doesn’t begin with the famous singer, but in 1997, when an elderly Colonel Tom Parker (Tom HanksNews of the World) is rushed to hospital, late in his life and with increasing illness, as he throws away the remains of his wealth on gambling machines in Las Vegas.

Then flashback to 1973, where – and also late in his short life – the titular singer (played by Austin ButlerOnce Upon a Time In Hollywood), getting increasingly overweight, is pumped full of drugs to get him onto the stage, rather how Michael Jackson was treated by his personal doctor.

Cue a brief run through of Tom Parker’s pre-Elvis life, running scamming gaming stalls, and promoting Hank Snow (David Wenham) – then, one of the biggest stars around, but you’re only on top for so long, and Parker is introduced to the music of Mr Presley in 1955, and wondering how he’ll get anywhere because from his voice, as he thinks the singer is black, and is surprised to learn he’s white.


Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker.

In fact, this film jumps around in time, initially, also going back to 1947 where Presley first hears the music which inspires him – and first-hand, namely coming from Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s That’s All Right, the singer in this portrayed by Gary Clark Jr.

Along the way, Elvis signs to Sun Records, which wants to predominantly hire and promote black artists, although there’s not much of a market in it, and is looking for a new direction – enter our lead act. But, as things go up, others come down, and since they’re regularly on the bill together, Hank Snow issues an ultimatum to Parker – it’s either him or Elvis. Hmm… tough choice(!)

Maybe it’s a good thing for Hank, since Parker does rather come across as rather a conman, or does he actually have the lad’s best interests at heart? Well, if you’re not sure, and are planning to see this, DO NOT look him up online first, since he does dish out a lot of positive opportunities for Presley, such as flog lucrative merchandise.

And that’s not only where the money is, because he gets tied into a 5-year exclusive performance deal at The International, in Las Vegas, which might just cause more problems than it could solve.

(Oh, and a goof spotted on IMDB, states that while this location is only ever referred to as The International, including the ‘present day’ scene in 1997, the building opened in 1969, was renamed the Las Vegas Hilton in 1972, but that new name is never mentioned. Seemed odd at first, but I presume it’s just to save the hassle trying to explain the change as the film flips back and forth in time.)


Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley, with Austin Butler.

Now, you’ll read the next part and wonder why I actually went to see this film, because personally, I’m not a major fan of Elvis’ music, and I’m not yet seen a Baz Luhrmann film I’ve liked*, and this one’s almost 3hrs long, which seems like it’ll be way too long.

About Baz Luhrmann first, I love his Sunscreen song, but before that, I couldn’t really get into his Romeo and Juliet movie, and then there was Strictly Ballroom – a film where, on its cinema release in 1992, if you didn’t like it when you saw it at a Showcase cinema, you could ask for a full refund. Only a handful of people asked for a refund, across the country. I didn’t like it. I asked for a full refund. As did my friend. We were glad to get it.

Still, times can change, and what you experience right off the bat is that Luhrmann’s latest movie is an assault on the senses.

Tom Hanks is a reliable presence in most things, and he does a decent job here, but while my experience of the real Elvis is only occasional, I can see that Austin Butler is an absolute revelation in the role, and putting on a wonderful performance. I’d definitely put him up for an Oscar nomination when the time comes. Note also that he does sing a couple of songs on the soundtrack, although the credits list does pass by at a very quick speed, so I’ll need to check that out separately.


Austin Butler in full swing…

However, it’s far from a warts-and-all biopic, since while we know we’ll inevitably be informed of the fact and the when about the man’s death, but we’re spared the details that this happened while sat on the toilet. Plus, although he was very much anti-drugs, prescription drugs do play a part in his life – as I mentioned earlier – but this is also brought up only when necessary, so basically, don’t concentrate on this film too deeply, just let it wash over you.

If there is another problem with this, then while it’s a spectacle, it does rather go on, feeling like an overlong miniseries all in one go. That said, they could tighten up some of the more rambling sections with Tom Parker, and expand more on other aspects of Elvis’ life that they’ve glossed over.

Some people might also find it odd that there’s more recent music thrown in to punctuate certain scenes, such as Backstreet BoysBackstreet’s Back, and Let It All Hang Out by Denzel Curry feat. PlayThatBoiZay.

Additionally, Zac Efron turns up in a sizeable role late on in the film, but I can’t see him listed in the credits so I presume he must be uncredited. And as there’s so many people in the cast, I can’t remember who he played, but I’ll list him below when I find out.

Oh, and the late ’60s Elvis looks more like Vic Reeves, circa 1991!

Elvis is in cinemas now, and is available to pre-order on 4K Blu-ray Limited Edition Steelbook, 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD.

Elvis – Official Trailer #2 – Warner Bros

Detailed specs:

Running time: 159 minutes
Release date: June 24th 2022
Studio: Warner Bros
Format: 2.39:1 (ARRIRAW (6.5K) (4.5K), Anamorphic Panavision)
Rating: 6.5/10

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Producers: Gail Berman, Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Patrick McCormick, Schuyler Weiss
Screenplay: Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, Jeremy Doner
Music: Elliott Wheeler

Elvis Presley: Austin Butler
Colonel Tom Parker: Tom Hanks
Priscilla Presley: Olivia DeJonge
Gladys Presley: Helen Thomson
Vernon Presley: Richard Roxburgh
BB King: Kelvin Harrison Jr
Hank Snow: David Wenham
Jimmie Rodgers Snow: Kodi Smit-McPhee
Jerry Schilling: Luke Bracey
Steve Binder: Dacre Montgomery
Tom Diskin: Leon Ford
Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup: Gary Clark Jr
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Yola
Dixie Locke: Natasha Bassett
Scotty Moore: Xavier Samuel
Bill Black: Adam Dunn
Little Richard: Alton Mason
Big Mama Thornton / Pentecostal Singer: Shonka Dukureh
Charlie Hodge: David Gannon
Pentecostal Pastor / Pentecostal Singer: Shannon Sanders
Billy Smith: Charles Grounds
Sam Phillips: Josh McConville
Marion Keisker: Kate Mulvany
Bones Howe: Gareth Davies
Young Elvis: Chaydon Jay