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Soul – Review

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A guide to Philosophy, Psychology and Purpose

Disney Pixar's Soul Spirits 2020
Pixar

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.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 8/10


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

Hogwarts Houses For MCU Characters

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MCU Harry Potter houses image
Marvel Studios & Warner Bros.

Since its conception, Hogwarts houses have been a deciding factor in getting to know people. How someone answers “what Hogwarts house are you in?” can tell you a lot about a person. But where do some of our favourite MCU characters shape up when faced with the sorting hat?

Tony Stark/Iron Man- Ravenclaw

While Tony could be argued for almost any of the houses, Ravenclaw suits him best. Most of his development comes from the pursuit of knowledge. Aside from being one of the smartest characters in the MCU, he is constantly learning and improving upon his technology. He tends to approach large problems from a strategic and pragmatic standpoint, especially in his later films. Admittedly he can be brave and somewhat self-servingly ambitious. But who he is at the end of his arc and the way that he solves problems points to Iron Man being in Ravenclaw.

Steve Rogers/Captain America- Gryffindor

Is it even a question? Steve Rogers is definitely a Gryffindor. From day one, he has always strived to do what’s right. And he subtly wants a bit of glory for it too. He’s a natural leader and has always rushed into danger without a thought. He is undoubtedly driven by bravery and righteousness and is through and through a Gryffindor.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow- Hufflepuff

Natasha is tricky. She could truthfully swing in any direction. It may seem strange to put a spy in Hufflepuff, but if nothing else, Natasha is loyal. She cares deeply for those close to her and has shown that she’s willing to die for them. Her characterization throughout the MCU has been lacking, but her solo film has shown her to be fiercely loyal.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk- Ravenclaw

Another Ravenclaw. Similar to Tony, Bruce is very intelligent. While he seems to be less inclined to want to fight battles than Tony is, he is constantly learning. His relationship with the Hulk can even be characterized this way. By a desire to learn how to control him, then to understand him, then to become him. His arc is one that is driven by knowledge.

Thor- Gryffindor

Thor is always looking to prove himself. Even though he can lift the hammer, he is constantly looking for validation that he is worthy. He’s not usually afraid of much, and when he is, he faces it anyway. What makes Thor a Gryffindor though is his desire to be the hero. He’s not in Slytherin because he doesn’t desire to rule. He’s not ambitious, he just wants validation.

Peter Parker/Spiderman- Gryffindor

Peter is another hard one. He’s intelligent like Bruce and Tony, which could throw him into Ravenclaw. He’s loyal to his friends, which could put him into Hufflepuff. But at his core, Peter is in Gryffindor. The proof is in one of his first lines in the MCU. In Civil War, he tells Tony, “if you can do the things I do, and you don’t, then bad things happen because of you. (paraphrased)” He feels that because he’s special, he has to act. And unlike Steve and Thor, Peter is almost always afraid. He faces his challenges in spite of that. And while he wants to have a normal life, and a typical High School experience, he selflessly puts himself on the line. Once again, Peter is not looking for recognition, he’s just trying to do the right thing.

Dr Strange- Ravenclaw

Lots of Ravenclaws in the MCU. For Dr Strange, there really isn’t any other option. He is completely driven by the pursuit of knowledge. And while recognition came with that, we see with his journey into the mystic arts that his true motivation comes from learning. He’s a very similar character to Tony Stark, and both of them are textbook Ravenclaws.

Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch- Hufflepuff

Like Natasha, Wanda is driven by her relationships. She is faithfully loyal to her brother, then Vision, then her family. She is definitely motivated to protect and care for those she loves. Including creating an entire alternate reality to be with them! Wanda is brave and intelligent, but at her core, she is loyal.

Loki- Slytherin

Finally, a Slytherin. Once again, was there any other option? Loki is characterized by his cunning and ambition. He wants to rule. And he doesn’t get there by rushing into battle. He gets there by being sneaky and clever. Loki is a Slytherin through and through.

Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel- Slytherin

This may not feel like the obvious choice for Carol, but she definitely portrays characteristics of a Slytherin. She’s the best, and she wants people to know it. She’s confident and clever, and she likes attention. We don’t know her very well yet, but from what we’ve seen, she seems to relish in the attention her efforts provide. She is good, helpful, and ambitious.

T’Challa/Black Panther- Hufflepuff

T’Challa is also driven by loyalty. But while he is protective of those he loves, his true loyalty is to Wakanda. He’s not king because of ambition, he’s king out of duty. Everything he does is through the lens of “what is best for Wakanda?” While it’s a bit unconventional, his loyalty to Wakanda characterizes him as a Hufflepuff.

Scott Lang/Ant-Man- Gryffindor

At first, it appears that Scott would be in Hufflepuff. After all, he is very motivated by his relationship with his daughter. But if he were truly 100% driven by that, he would have made different choices. He would not have betrayed Hope and Hank and teamed up with Captain America without their permission. He also would not have stolen from his company and landed in jail in the first place. But both of those above decisions do characterize him as a Gryffindor. He wants to be in the action, and he doesn’t always consider the consequences. Scott isn’t really looking for recognition and is not that ambitious, but he does want to be involved in the big events. He wants to help people, and he bravely faces battles. Sometimes without discretion.


Do you agree with our picks for these MCU characters in Hogwarts Houses? If not or if we’ve missed any out, leave us a comment below.


Check out our review of Black Widow HERE.

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