Spoiler-filled review of Soul

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Reporter

Now available on Disney Plus – Soul. This is the latest entry in Pixar’s ever-growing film library. When the trailer came out, people, including myself, didn’t know what to make of it. While it looked wonderful and had a talented cast behind it, audiences were still uncertain if they would enjoy it or not. During the final week of 2020, I decided to see it for myself, and all I have to say is, “I love you Pixar!” I’m not even kidding. This is one of the most creative, imaginative, thought-provoking works I’ve seen in recent years. 

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

The story centers on a man named Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a middle school music teacher, who is about to make his big break by playing with one of jazz’s best musicians. Tragedy strikes when Joe ends up in an accident that causes his soul to end up in the Great Before, an outlandish realm where souls get their personalities before going to live on Earth. With time running out to get to his big performance, Joe meets a soul named 22 (Tina Fey), who doesn’t want to live on Earth and helps him return to Earth before his soul is forced to go to the Great Beyond. 

Story-wise, this setup is very reminiscent of films like “Coco” and “Inside Out” — the main character ends up in the afterlife and explores worlds that deal with human emotions. This is understandable, but what makes it stand out is how they manage to add new elements and ideas so that it feels fresh. Pixar has been using this strategy for years and this film is no exception. Another thing I found interesting was how this film is mostly aimed at adults. While kids can still watch it and get a great experience, it’s so nice to see something that not only challenges every viewer but is also filled with elements that feed directly into each other. Everything from the environments to the characters serves a purpose. The various worlds explored in this film possess so much detail and dimension that it gives audience members the opportunity to read further into them. Without giving anything away, they connect to all the different experiences people have gone through or are going through. 

On top of the spectacular world-building, this might be Pixar’s best looking movie to date, which is saying something after seeing “Coco.” I was blown away at how realistic the backgrounds look that I could have sworn that they filmed these locations with actual cameras. Even though these settings are populated with animated characters, they still make it so they match the environments they live in. Each character has a unique design and feel. You can tell their personalities just by looking at them, which makes a great contrast for when you go back and forth between the real world and the soul world, with its cartoony landscapes and outlandish character designs. Even though the soul world looks simple compared to the real world, it’s filled with so much detail and dimension that it’s impressive to see every time it’s on-screen. I would have loved to have seen this film on the big screen, but even on my TV at home it looks amazing.

The actors they chose are also top tier. Jamie Foxx is perfect for this role, as he is able to make you identify with his character. When he acts sincere, you feel his passion. When he feels frustrated, you relate to his situation. He feels like his big chance is slipping away, and even when everything does go his way he still feels like something is missing. His character arc of going from reaching his goal to appreciating what he has in life is so perfectly paced and natural that it leaves a big impact. Tina Fey as 22 is also a great addition. Her character could have easily been too annoying or too childlike, but they find that perfect balance of both humor and relatability. I laughed a lot whenever she was on screen. They also make her character arc interesting with how she’s afraid to go into the real world. This can be seen as identifiable to a lot of people, as it represents their fear of the unknown. This presents the idea that life might not be what you think it is, and the only way to find out is to experience it for yourself. I think these characters work so well because we see ourselves in each of them.

Another enjoyable aspect is how a lot of these scenes don’t have much dialogue, with some of them relying purely on visuals. Scenes like a character getting invested in their work and being in their own world gives us an idea of their passion and desires. The people behind it know how to make every scene count, whether they be long and detailed or short and visual. This film demonstrates the power of animation, not only with its great characters and creative writing, but also by knowing when to let the animators take over and convey the story in a way that pulls the audience in.

This is one of those rare movies where I have no problems whatsoever. Every element that’s used here is done beautifully and feeds directly into each other as the film progresses. This already ranks in my top five Pixar movies of all time. Whenever people say that Disney is out of ideas or that they can’t push the barriers any further than they already have, these are the types of films that catch us by surprise and keep us coming back for more. If you haven’t seen it yet or if you don’t have a Disney Plus account–Subscribe! Log on! Go see it! It’s definitely one of the greats.

Rating: 5 /5 Sails.


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