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Soul – Review

Kym Du Toit



A guide to Philosophy, Psychology and Purpose

Disney Pixar's Soul Spirits 2020

So, Pixar’s latest offering Soul has skipped the movie theatres and landed straight onto streaming service Disney Plus. But is the film any good? Here’s our review of Soul.

There are few animations that delve into psychological and philosophical concepts. Let alone attempt to grasp the meaning of life itself. Films like Inside Out and Coco occasionally emerge from the woodwork. Connecting us with the psychological mechanisms of our mind. But to use constructs of psychology and philosophy to determine the purpose of life. Wrapped up in a fun-filled animation? That’s a feat only Disney Pixar could have achieved.

Before its Christmas Day release, Soul was already set to become a member of the Pixar big-league movies. The film caused quite a stir amongst Disney fans. Not only was it to be a story delving into the most elusive of life’s questions. The trailer revealed the lead to be African American, a first for the animation giants.

But does Soul live up to the epic hype it created? Is it as philosophical as we were led to believe? Did we switch off our screens at the credits and feel life’s true purpose? Should Moonwind have his own spin-off purely for his philosophies? The last one is a definite.

Let’s delve into the philosophical and psychological thinking underneath this charming animation as I review Soul.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the movie, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

Introducing Joe Gardener

At first, the movie appears innocent. A middle-aged Joe Gardener (Jamie Foxx). A teacher of an uncooperative group of band students with no passion for their music. In the world of opposites, Joe couldn’t be further from their passionless motives. His dreams are big. He feels he is beyond the every-day stability life of a teacher brings. But when he finally hits his big break, he falls down a manhole, leaving behind dreams of jazz fame.

To the unsuspecting viewer, this is where the movie takes a drastic turn. The cinematography of the “real life” Joe had fallen from changes. No longer is Joe in human form, he becomes a blue blob-like construct. In a spiritualist mind, he becomes an ectoplasm.

After escaping the escalator, desperate to avoid The Great Beyond. Joe’s soul lands in The Great Before, a place of blue and pink. It is also full of Jerrys, who is “the coming together of all quantised forms of the universe.” And all animated as though drawn by a child. The Great Before is where a young soul’s personality is located before entering the earth.

The great beyond

Wait, personalities are pre-determined? For many years this subject has been examined by theorists. John Locke theorised that a child is born with a “tabula rasa” or blank slate without any data. Whereas Jerry Fodor argued that skills and abilities are present in the brain from birth. Pixar has formed their own theory, and it’s hard-hitting.

Pixar’s theory about the formation of life is very to-the-point. It completely hijacks the idea that through life a child develops their personalities. From their parents, families, environment and culture. Instead, a child finds their “spark” before they can enter the earth.

Joe finds himself thrust into the role of mentor. This is ironic in itself. In his haste to avoid The Great Beyond, Joe picks the name tag of Psychology professor Dr Börgensson. What’s more ironic, is that he is given the task of mentoring the notoriously taxing 22 (Tina Fey). A soul who seems to have avoided going to earth for centuries, as shown in her portfolio of mentors. The list contains a collection of philosophical, historical, political, and psychological theorists.

Tackling 22

22 is a complex figure. In this sense, Pixar has stuck to the usual script of “hard to reach” character who finds their way by the end of the story. Though, 22 is complicated in a whole different way. The soul is formless, lacks personality, doesn’t have a purpose and refuses to conform. And yet, as a viewer we can’t help but relate to the little blob. Could this be a piece of philosophical insight? Perhaps we are meant to accept face-value rather than relying on external factors. 22 may be an ectoplasm, but one with many layers.

There is also the problem of The Great Before and its realism. In 22’s deciding speech to Joe, the soul states that “This whole place is hypothetical. You can’t crush a soul here. That’s what earth is for.” Alongside the obvious. Pixar may have laid an easter egg here. A miniature nod to the fact that the whole universe they created is hypothetical. As far as philosophy goes, this is up there with Descartes notions of being.

Regardless of the potential hidden meanings behind Soul simply watching it brings a sense of ease in this review. It’s an easy watch with a fantastic storyline. The cast is phenomenal, and the cinematography is excellent. I would implore anyone to add it to their watch list.


Thank you for reading our review of Soul. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.

Read more about Soul HERE.

Read IMDB information about Soul HERE.

Soul is streaming now on Disney Plus.

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Movie News

9 Movie Remakes That Should Never Have Been Made

Aaron Phillips



Total Recall 2012 image
Columbia Pictures

Let’s have a look at nine movie releases remakes that definitely shouldn’t have never been made to seen the light of day.

It seems that in recent years, Hollywood have run out of original movie ideas. There has been remake after remake of films that were initially successful. As it often the case, film execs decide to cash in and remake these films for a new audience.

Now, sometimes this works. Oceans Eleven; The Jungle Book and Woman in Black are some examples that come to mind.

But sometimes it can go spectacularly wrong. This can be due to poor box office sales or being critically panned by the critics. Or it could just be the fact that the writing is utterly diabolical.

9. The Omen (2006)

If you’re going to have a pop at remaking a horror classic, then you have to bring something new to the table. The David Seltzer-penned 1976 original is a horror classic. Brooding and sinister, it doesn’t rely on shock scares. Instead, it uses atmosphere; some fantastic actors; a great script and an Oscar-winning musical score. This remake from 2006 didn’t live up to its predecessor’s brilliance. In fact, there’s no good reason why it was made. The plot follows almost the exact same story as the original film. A large majority of the scenes are practically identical, which seems pointless. You can’t blame the cast as there was some fine actors involved – Mia Farrow, Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Gambon to name a few. But their acting skills were not enough to make this movie good.

It adds nothing new to the original story; it’s just the same film with a different cast. It did make a healthy profit at the box office ($120 million), but the critic reviews were not good for the reasons I’ve mentioned. Fan-reviewed websites also have pretty poor reviews for it, so don’t just take my word for it.

8. Robin Hood (2018)

There have been a few Robin Hood movies over the years. Some are better than others, but this remake from 2018 is truly terrible. There are many factors involved and the two lead men are fine actors, but just not in this movie. Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx have a great filmography, but their ham acting is just cringeworthy here. Blame should also go to the script, which is cheesier than a large cheese pudding. There is plenty of action sequences, but the costumes and dialogue are all anachronistic. This all adds to the clunkiness of the whole debacle. It was also a box office bomb and universally panned by critics. If you want a good Robin Hood movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, watch Robin Hood: Men in Tights from 1993.

7. Get Carter (2000)

The 1971 original is often hailed as one of the greatest movies of all time. A lot of that had to do with the charismatic Michael Caine as the lead character. A gritty Londoner out for revenge after the murder of his brother. In 2000 the movie was remade, but this time it’s set in Seattle with Sylvester Stallone as the lead character. The premise is still the same as the original film, but Sly Stallone kicking butts in Seattle just doesn’t have the same impact. Yes, there are some cool fight scenes and Sly does a good job on the acting front. But it doesn’t have the coolness or panache of the original. It just another Sly fronted action-thriller with little substance. Critics and audiences agreed, and it was universally panned. It also lost $40 million at the international box office.

Psycho (1998)

I’m going to open with the same point I made earlier in this article. If you are going to remake a classic movie, then be innovative and do something new. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 original is a masterpiece of creepy psychological filmmaking. Unfortunately, this 1998 remake failed to improve on any of that. Vince Vaughn played the Norman Bates character with Anne Heche playing Marion Crane. They do a fair job in portraying these iconic characters but bring nothing new to them. I guess seeing the film in colour helps bring a modern feel to it; especially as fake blood was used as opposed to chocolate sauce in the original. But interesting facts aside, it’s pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of the original.

Even the director Gus Van Sant admitted later it was an experiment to see if a shot-for-shot movie would work. It didn’t, as was proved by the critical and financial failure of the film. Then it barely made back half of its $60 million dollar budget. It was also given several Golden Raspberry awards for worst director and worst remake. This proves that you don’t mess around with Alfred Hitchcock.

5. Robocop (2014)

I remember walking into the cinema to watch this full of excitement. I left the cinema two hours later full of popcorn, but also full of disappointment. The original 1987 film is a cult classic. It’s mix of action; violence and satire made it one of the best movies of the decade. This remake from 2014 failed to hit any of those spots. Yes, it had some small elements of political satire and philosophical touches from the original, but little else. People with weak stomachs will applaud the lack of gore, but without it, the film seems too melodramatic. The updated effects make this remake look better, but the substance and excitement just aren’t there. Critics were overwhelming negative of the film too. There is also another reboot in the works. Why?!

4. The Fog (2005)

Enveloping fog has always been a good premise from a horror film. John Carpenter also thought so and made a creepy such film in 1980. The plot revolves around a mysterious fog that brings dead sailors to haunt and terrorize a Californian town. Sometimes the passage of time can allow for the special effects to improve, and it does here. But the gaps between the various grisly deaths are just dull. The characters are wooden, and you don’t end up caring when they meet their untimely demise. John Carpenter did produce this remake so it’s surprising there isn’t more depth to it. It did make a small profit at the box office but was universally panned by movie critics. If you do have to watch it just don’t engage your brain.

3. Total Recall (2012)

Another movie that tried to reboot an iconic sci-fi action film. 1990’s original was set on Mars and featured Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. At the time, it was one of the most expensive movies ever made. This remake from 2012 had Colin Farrell in the lead role, supported by the brilliant Kate Beckinsale. This is another film that’s enjoyable to watch, just don’t try thinking whilst watching. There are plenty of spectacular action sequences that fizz, pop and bang, but don’t expect substance. It lacks any depth to the plot and misses the mark on the dry humour and character development that the original had. Pretty much all the movie critics agreed as well.

2. Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

Ah, Nicolas Cage. His movies in recent years have been a bit, well, hit and miss. And that’s being generous. It’s a shame as he is genuinely a great actor. But in recent years he’s picked terrible films to be in, and often dials in a performance. This remake from the Pang brothers Thai original from 1999 has none of the unique hallmarks of the original. For example, Nic Cage’s character is no longer deaf and mute like he was in the original. This seems odd as the brothers also directed this remake. A meandering plot; wooden performances and clunky cinematography make this a flop. It also received poor reviews and barely broke even at the box office.

1. Death Wish (2018)

The Charles Bronson 1974 original was a violent but successful vigilante movie. It also hit a chord with Americans at a time of increasing urban violence. It spawned several sequels, but this 2018 remake had Bruce Willis dishing out the justice. The original film had a point to make about taking the law into your own hands and did it with a visceral bang. The film was shocking at the time with its violence and rape scene, but it was relevant to explain how the lead character changed through the film. This remake doesn’t explore any of this.

It’s a brainless revenge movie that doesn’t have the same impact as the original and Bruce Willis dials in a lacklustre performance. It doesn’t add anything to the original film, and you’re left feeling empty after watching it. The whole thing seems pointless and morally bankrupt. In fact, it makes the 1974 original seem almost philosophical. It also received criticism for being released a few weeks after the Douglas High School shooting in Florida and for glorifying guns. It also barely made a profit at the box office and overwhelmingly received negative reviews.

And that’s our list of nine movie remakes that should never have been given the green light. Did we miss any? do you agree with us? Let us know in the comments below.

Read about what went wrong with the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street HERE.

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