Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, Phylicia Rashād, Daveed Diggs, Richard Ayoade and Graham Norton
Directed by Pete Docter
Written by Pete Docter, Kemp Powers and Mike Jones
The name ‘Pixar’ is enough to bring nostalgia to most people these days, and seems to remain one of the few studios who consistently deliver heart-warming, entertaining and unique stories to the big screen. Unfortunately, ‘Soul’ has been enjoyed by most on a smaller screen this past year, but it doesn’t fail to deliver exactly what you’d hope for, as well as a little more.
The story of Joe Gardner, a middle school Jazz teacher in New York who never feels that he fully accomplished his dreams of being a professional musician, ‘Soul’ draws on themes of loss, love and aspiration. Although the films which Pixar make are definitely not just for children, it’s undeniable that the younger demographic make up a large portion of the audience. As a result, when it comes to dealing with a subject as heavy as loss or death, a filmmaker must be especially creative – to not only bring a vision of life after death to the screen, but to also do it in a way which considers how a child may perceive it and be affected by it. Despite this, ‘Soul’ creates a beautiful and intriguing perception of what this change means to so many people, and uses it to tell their story in a fresh and exciting way.
It’s no secret that Pixar are one of the greatest animation studios working today, with perhaps only Studio Ghibli to rival them. There were multiple times throughout the film when I found myself struggling to believe that some of the visuals – in particular the backgrounds of some scenes – were animated, and not instead just using real footage. Pixar has consistently worked to improve the quality of their visuals since their creation, walking a fine line between remaining true to the wonder which animation can provide, and allowing a greater amount of realism to influence their films. However, ‘Soul’ also demonstrates some of the most abstract use of animation I’ve seen from the studio, and showing signs of inspiration from other brilliant animators such as Don Hertzfeldt, incorporates darker and less familiar visuals when depicting darker moments in the ‘You Seminar’ – a place somewhere after life, and a little before the “great beyond”.
Trent Reznor and Atticuss Ross have once again proved themselves to be competent and exciting composers who are able to adapt themselves not only to the themes which a film carries, but also to the audience who’ll be hearing their score. A far stretch from the lighter sounds of Michael Giacchino’s ‘Up’ soundtrack, or the work of Randy Newman for ‘Toy Story’, the darker and more electronic sounds which Reznor and Ross bring to ‘Soul’ feels like an exploration into new territory for Pixar, whilst also being a great soundtrack which works perfectly with the narrative and themes which the film explores.
Whilst I might not consider ‘Soul’ to be amongst Pixar’s best works, it definitely ranks highly in their filmography, and shows that they’re a studio who are still able to create interesting and exciting work. I’d highly recommend ‘Soul’ to anyone of any age, and if you get the chance to give it a watch, you definitely should.