A Movie in Review

Disney Pixar’s Soul


Courtesy of Unsplash

Demetria Slyt, Staff Writer

Warning: possible spoilers ahead! What seems like a millennium ago, back in November of 2019 Pixar announced an upcoming film entitled “Soul.” It was originally scheduled for release in July of 2020, however, due to the current pandemic, it was rescheduled several times like many other films. As of December 25th, Soul was made available for streaming on Disney Plus. The film follows Pixar’s first Black lead Joe Gardener, voiced by Jamie Foxx, and his journey with 22, voiced by Tina Fey as they discover what life is really about. This movie tackles a lot of philosophical questions and even provides its own take on life. I think it’s a little more grown-up than other Pixar entries because of this. The overarching message and meaning of this film is pretty subtle and creative. I’m not sure if most people or specifically kids could pick up on it in the first viewing, I even had to watch a second time to get a good feel for it. There are a few issues I had with the film but there was also a lot that I loved about it and I think It will become a classic, if not, one of Pixar’s most notable entries in a filmography.  

I can’t help gushing about this kind of stuff as an art major and a long time lover of animation, but the visual elements of this film blew my mind. As did the various character designs of people on Earth, and the abstract characters in the other realm we get to explore. I am not a person of color, so I’m not trying to speak on behalf of anyone who is, but I personally thought there was a lot of great representation in this movie. I loved how each character looked so unique. I also remember watching this and admiring how the characters’ clothing hugged their bodies and moved with them, especially on the various body shapes. From a technical animation standpoint that is amazing even if it is just a small detail. But, those small details are where animation can really shine and even enhance things that a live-action movie cannot. Animation has come so far as a practice and I think It’s only gonna get better.  

The music choice really brings this film to life and ties in with the meaning of the film really nicely. Jazz music has been described as very improvisational, and just like life itself can be taken moment by moment. Joe Gardener, our main protagonist, has spent his whole life in pursuit of being a jazz musician because he believes it’s his purpose in life. As the film progresses we learn that the real purpose of life is to live every second and to cherish even the small moments. The little things aren’t insignificant, and through the character 22, we experience those things subtly. 

When dealing with the afterlife in a movie it can be hard to “avoid” religion, however, this is something Soul does very well. The afterlife or the “great beyond”, and prelife or the “great before” as the characters refer to it, are very conceptual places in the film and are more spiritual than religious. I’m not sure if anyone had an issue with this, I personally enjoyed it because there are so many different religions in the world and everyone has their own take on the afterlife. Doing this also helps make it less controversial and doesn’t step on any toes, so to speak. Overall, I liked the way they handled that and put a creative spin on it.  

There has been an unfortunate trend when it comes to films with black leads, where the main character is transformed into something other than human. A few examples of this would be “Princess and the Frog” (2009) and recently “Spies in Disguise” (2019), in both of which the main black protagonists are turned into animals for a majority of the film. Soul nearly made the same mistake but somewhat makes up for it as the film progresses and we see Joe’s memories as a human and when we go back to Earth. One thing to note that offsets this is that in the film there is a sort of body swap moment, and I’m honestly not sure how to feel about it. I think it was interesting to see Joe go through a literal out-of-body experience and having to let someone else in the driver’s seat. It was somewhat off-putting to hear Tina Fey (a white actress) voice coming from Joe’s body, I think a lot of people had an issue with that, especially people of color. However, there is a point in the film where Joe is confronting his mother, and instead of hearing 22’s voice, we get to hear Joe’s and I sort of wish we had more of that. I think this could have been handled better in the film, and that isn’t anything against Tina Fey as an actor but I think her character could have even been cast differently. Maybe even giving the role to an actor or actress of color, because they can relate better to what 22 goes through as a character. 

A lot of people had an issue with the climax of the film and the overall ending, which left a little more to be desired. I agree that the climax could have been delivered differently and could have had a bigger emotional payoff like other classic Pixar films. Also, the ending was pretty open-ended and we aren’t sure where our characters end up or go from there. I personally kind of liked that and wish more animated movies would do it. I feel like it’s always such a cliche to wrap up a film in a neat little bow, even if it is somewhat satisfying. I like that there’s a possibility for more and I like that the characters aren’t being limited in how they can grow and that their story doesn’t just end with us. I appreciate that Pixar has been giving us more than just your average ending as of recently, and hope they explore this more as they move forward.  

As a whole, I really enjoyed this movie even with those minor issues I mentioned and I would still highly recommend checking it out. If you’ve seen it already, what did you think? What was your takeaway from the ending? What do you think about the message? As always, feel free to reach out via email with any comments you may have pertaining to today’s article or even just feedback about what I could have covered better. I enjoy hearing back from readers with their own opinions or personal thoughts. Stay tuned for new articles every Monday and Friday, and stay safe out there! 

Demetria Slyt is a Dakota Student Opinion Writer. She can be reached at [email protected]