You Like Jazz?
By Sadira Sittampalam
Pixar Animation Studios has been one of the best in the industry for so many years, consistently putting out heartbreakingly beautiful and unique stories while having some of the best-quality and cutting-edge animations of its time. In 2006, the company was bought by Disney and while it didn’t seem to affect much of Pixar’s line-up for the following years, Pixar has been on a slow yet steady decline since then.
Soul is Pixar’s latest film which follows Joe, a middle school band teacher whose life hasn’t manifested in the way he always hoped. He has a passion for jazz and right as he finally gets his big break, things take an unexpected turn. While this film has all the signs of a great Pixar film; a great concept, spectacular and groundbreaking animation, enchanting soundtrack, and some brilliant voice acting, the story doesn’t have the same level of perfection that we have come to expect from a Pixar movie.
However, this isn’t a complaint at this film solely, but rather at the onslaught of sequels that Pixar has created since Disney took over, and the general sense that all their movies of more recent times have a similar quality to them, while most of the old Pixar films all have their own unique sense of identity. All you have to do is think about Toy Story, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, and WALL-E to see how individual all these films seem. While if you think about movies like Coco, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, Onward along with Monsters University, The Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4 and Finding Dory, they don’t have the same power or influence. Now with the introduction of Soul, it is clear what the problem is; there just isn’t the same level of perfection put into their stories.
While the movie was fun and enjoyable and would certainly please any child who watches it, it was still pretty predictable. There were also a lot of convenient narrative choices and characters used only to advance the plot. It just followed a clear set of plot points that I feel a lot of people excused since it is technically a kids’ movie. However, Pixar had been known for making movies that were accessible to both kids and adults alike, that is equally appealing to both audiences. With this film, people seem to be using the excuse that it is a kids’ movie to overlook some pretty obvious flaws and still calling it a movie that is equally appealing to adults and kids.
But you can’t have it both ways. As a movie for adults, there were too many logical flaws in the design of this world according to the movie’s own explanations of the design of the world. This wouldn’t have even been a big factor but the movie took many scenes to explain the design of the world which made all of these flaws really noticeable. These scenes were also pretty tedious as the explanations went on for quite a while, which thereby affected the pacing of the movie as well, making it a little boring in the middle. Nevertheless, this is where my criticisms end as everything else about the movie was expertly designed and produced. The animation in particular, was just extraordinary with so many luscious landscapes and bounding visuals which makes sense as Pixar is primarily an animation studio, with a big focus on visual artistry and making technological innovations in animation with each film they make. The character design was interesting and well thought out, the worlds they built all looked so unique and original with such a soft and warm colour palette.
The concept of this movie was also really great. It is all about what makes you, you, and offers a lot of discussion for both adults and kids. I feel like this film should be required viewing for all kids as it goes over some of the biggest existential problems we face as humans living in this society. It is entirely wholesome and gives off a really powerful message that is valuable to all, even adults. It was only the narrative through which these messages were told that was flawed. And even so, this movie was still a pretty emotional experience, delivering laughs, melancholy, drama, and a bittersweet end.
The soundtrack was also fantastic, with the impeccable duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross leading the way. It was interesting to see their names on this as thus far they have only done soundtracks for some pretty dark movies.
However, they actually made this film really iconic through their atmospheric music that was full of mystery and wonder. For the jazz scores, they used a lot of compositions from the irreplaceable Jon Batiste which worked really well and was pretty accessible even to people who don’t really listen to jazz.
Overall, this movie is one of the best for kids. It teaches so much about life in a way that is understandable and will undoubtedly help them as they get older and older. For adults, Soul is just a good movie. It has powerful messages and has so much to appreciate about its design but the writers clearly did not put their all into making this film unpredictable or logically sound.
It just doesn’t live up to any of the early Pixar movies that were truly at the top of their game. However, I still enjoyed the movie immensely and it is a nice activity for the entire family to enjoy.