Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Soul of Pixar

Although this review is ostensibly about Pixar's latest masterpiece, Soul (spoilers ahead), it's really about what makes Pixar so special. The studio has had success after success ... okay, well if we ignore Cars 2, of course! Pixar never shies away from deeper, more complex themes. Losing loved ones (Onward). Autism (Loop). Gender Equality (Purl). Accepting atypicality (Float). Sexuality (Coming Out). It's hard to pin Pixar as just a "family studio", for the studio makes art that is not easily classified as family fare. Sure, their films are always appropriate for children and adults alike, but the topics are hardly considered standard family fare. And here's what makes Pixar so genius: the films genuinely and sincerely confront very mature subjects, without pandering to children, and without boring the adults in the audience.

It's amazing to watch a film like The Incredibles, to enjoy the superheroics and the crazy-fun action, yet to realize that the movie is really addressing heavy topics like aging, parenting, and infidelity. Coco doesn't shy away from more serious themes like familial responsibility, mourning, and one's very own existence. Inside Out beautifully wrestles with not just the existence of, but the absolute necessity of tough emotions like sadness and fear. These films talk about the hard things in life, and they do it with grace and beauty, never dumbing things down for the kiddos.

Soul is no different. This gorgeous film tackles death and the afterlife head on. And more interestingly, the movie depicts the premortal existence. Along the way, Soul explores the purpose of life, what it means to be alive, and what happens both before and after our mortal existence. The film is beautifully animated, on par with every other Pixar creation. The acting is on point (though Jamie Foxx is the main star, this is Tina Fey's movie). Soul unfortunately garnered some racial criticism, but I only have respect for this work of art. A movie with a line that describes a character as "the coming together of all quantized fields of the universe appearing in a form the feeble human brain can comprehend" (and meaning that completely seriously) is not usually a movie for kids. Unless it's a Pixar movie. 

So how does Pixar pull off a truly existential film like Soul? Well, Pixar has one major trick up its sleeve. It's the same trick that your favorite teachers growing up had. It's the same trick that made you and your best friends get along so well. And it's the same trick that make the most impressive parents so successful. The trick is this: Pixar treats its audience with respect, as humans who are experiencing this thing called life. It doesn't matter how old the humans are, they are still human. And Pixar simply works to explain what it is to be human. That's the trick. That's the soul of the most creative film studio ever. That's the real magic behind Pixar: they aim to explore the human experience. 

Just ignore Cars 2

No comments:

Post a Comment