Five years after director Pete Docter took us into the world of emotions in Inside Out, he illustrates this in his new Pixar masterpiece SOUL the human soul and explores the question of what shapes us and makes us human. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Soul (USA 2020)
What makes us human? How will we…. “We”? Well, the slightly chaotic and stubborn soul called 22 (original voice: Tina Fey) doesn’t ask himself these questions. She doesn’t like the personalities or interests people get before they arrive on Earth. And in general she wants to have relatively little to do with all the Earth stuff. Until one day she meets Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx). Through a stupid mishap, the aspiring jazz musician ends up in a fantastic, mystical place where all souls stay before they come to earth, just a few hours before his big performance. From then on he has to deal with the clever 22 at his side, who has never understood what is actually so great about this human life. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 how great it is to be human, the two stumble from one mess to the next.
Animation cinema is better suited than any other to show things that could hardly or not be illustrated using conventional methods. To this day, the Disney and Pixar studios are considered pioneers in opening up new storytelling worlds. The mouse company and the animated film giant that was swallowed up by the same company in 2006 first brought animals (“Bambi”, “The Lion King”), then everyday objects (“Cars”, “Toy Story”) and finally even emotions (“Inside Out”) to life . Thank you to the countless creative filmmakers in the Hollywood animation industry. Pete Docter’s “Inside Out” is now five years old and was followed by the successful short film “Riley’s First Date”, but despite its box office success (858 million on a production budget of 175 million US dollars), there has so far been no sequel. Not least because the conception of “Everything is Inside Out” took over six years. A sequel needs to be carefully considered. In his new film “Soul”, Pete Docter no longer talks about the world of emotions, but opens up to his audience the no less complex world of the human soul. In doing so, he remains true to himself in that he once again takes the audience into previously unexplored narrative terrain that has to do with the human body in the broadest sense. But even if you always rediscover Docter’s handwriting not only in the big picture, but also in small peripheral phenomena, in the end both films clearly stand on their own.
Joe’s first big appearance is imminent…
The adoption of isolated ideas that were already used in “Everything is Inside Out” to represent the unrepresentable can already be found in the figure design of “Soul”. Protagonist Joe Gardner and the world in which he lives are still a largely realistic replica of people and the reality of their lives. But if it’s the original by Jamie Foxx (“Just Mercy”) When the spoken jazz musician goes to the so-called “before” – that is, to the world in which previously untainted souls are prepared for their life on earth – there are no limits to creativity. And that is sorely necessary, because how else are you supposed to bring such an abstract (and above all: never before sculpturally represented) world to life? In many moments, the inventor part of Pete Docter comes to the fore, who, in the run-up to “Everything’s Inside Out,” was racking his brains over how to illustrate something like “abstract thinking.” In “Soul” too, there are figures (or rather “things”) that experience a figurative form of representation that serves the sole purpose of being tangible for the human mind. Something like “Inspiration” here becomes a figure consisting of a few white lines (and therefore not even two-dimensional), without unbalancing the general animation concept of “Soul”. Nevertheless, such a decision alone makes it clear: Pixar’s 23rd full-length feature film is only partially suitable for very young viewers, who this time will not simply not understand individual gags and subtexts (yet), but will only be able to follow the plot if they have a feeling for it for the abstraction of human character traits displayed here.
“Pixar’s 23rd full-length feature film is only partially suitable for very young viewers, who this time will not simply not understand individual gags and subtexts (yet), but will only be able to follow the plot if they have a feeling for it have abstraction of human character traits.”
In contrast to “Inside Out,” the world presented in “Soul” is not present in human reality. While the audience is subconsciously aware of the constant presence and absence at all times, before enjoying “Soul” hardly anyone will have thought about how our soul actually became the one that slumbers within us today. Nevertheless, it is once again a fantastic writing team consisting of Pete Docter and Mike Jones (“EvanHand”) and Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”) Thanks to the fact that the question underlying the story is tangible: How do we become who we are? What shapes us, our likes and dislikes? And what exactly makes life worth living? “Soul” is basically dedicated to nothing less than the question of the meaning of life, which the stubborn soul asks when it asks what is so special about earthly existence that it should give up its relaxed life in the hereafter. But the obvious foray through the highlights of a human life soon turns into an intensive consideration of all earthly burdens, problems, but also joys and passions. While “Inside Out” was not about proclaiming the constant presence of joy as the desirable emotional state, the core message of “Soul” is not a simple “Once you find a reason that makes it worth living , you will enjoy your life from now on!” message, but a sincere appeal to perceive all the moments around you – whether positive or negative – because these are the ones that shape us and our character.
…but just a little later he has to deal with these strange characters in “Davorhaben”.
This means that “Soul” is more in the tradition of the badly underestimated “Monsters AG” prequel “Die Monster Uni” than of “Everything is Inside Out”; Pete Docter reverses the “Believe in yourself and your dream so that it will come true!” message that has now become commonplace in family films – and aligns it with a much less offensive, but no less optimistic “You can have a happy one even without a big dream.” Lead life!” message. Just like Mike learns in “Monster University” that you can ultimately achieve satisfaction without achieving self-imposed goals. To ensure that this falls on fertile ground and is not misinterpreted as an appeal to lethargy, we would like to reiterate our view that “Soul” only fully reveals itself to its audience when they already have a little bit of life experience. In addition, the concessions made to a young audience are limited anyway. The middle part, in which Joe and 22 have swapped bodies – from now on he roams the world as a cat, 22 finds himself in Joe’s body – sets an enormous pace and does not skimp on some successful slapstick interludes. But here too it is the small details that make up the quintessence of “Soul”. How the creators managed to capture 22’s fascination with everyday things like the taste of pizza or interpersonal communication from the perspective of someone who is seeing the world with their own eyes for the very first time is almost overwhelming.
“Pete Docter reverses the “Believe in yourself and your dream so that it will come true!” message that has become commonplace in family films – and aligns it with a much less offensive, but no less optimistic “Even without a big dream, you can lead a happy life!” message.”
This time, the technical strengths of “Soul” lie less in making the 3D animated worlds look even more realistic. Instead, it’s about finding images for something that can hardly be illustrated. This attempt could easily have backfired. Without any comparison, Pete Docter ventures into previously unexplored territory – in the truest sense of the word – and relies on the audience to accept the world he has created. Time will tell whether that happens. The makers of “Soul” laid the foundation for this with a lot of passion.
Conclusion: The new Pixar masterpiece “Soul” uses clever means to illustrate processes in the human soul that have never been explained before. Like “Everything is Inside Out,” “Soul” is not a scientific treatise, but rather a limitlessly creative “What if…?” experiment, which once again features heartwarming characters, a great design and a clever message that stands out from the “Believe in your dreams!” platitude of common family entertainment.
“Soul” will be available to stream on Disney+ starting December 25th.