Thoughts on Pixar’s Soul? (besides the amazing artistry and ambitious setup)
Something felt both tidy/rushed about the last act, and also muddy - it seems as if 22 changes perspective, and then later, Joe changes perspective.
in the end, the film seems to argue that 22, who began with a nihilistic/dismissive perspective toward life, changes to appreciate and crave embodied mortal life; AND also that Joe changes to have a more expansive non-careerist view of how to live, after seeing the fresh wonder that only 22 could appreciate while briefly in his body.
Give that the final scenes are about both of them wanting to live, I suspect a deeper analysis will place Joe in a Steadfast position. He wanted to live the entire time (what that meant might have changed, but the idea remained the same), while 22 wanted to skip life entirely. In the end, she wanted to live, too.
That said, I loved the movie, but I suspect they intentionally left things out to give the movie a more slice-of-life feel. (Especially since they chose never to directly answer the question that both characters were concerned with: What’s 22’s spark?)
That said, this is a quick thought, and I intentionally am going to mute this thread, because this is a movie I (personally) don’t want to analyze. The feeling of ambiguity that I received from the move lends to the message for me, and I don’t want to know anything about where that comes from.
We watched this yesterday and I loved it!
I am not at a stage where I can recall the implications of choices without opening the software but here is by take on it.
I too couldn’t work out who was ‘steadfast’.
Joe grew a lot, and started paying attention to life’s everyday pleasures (or did he stop being blind to them?), by the end he was ready to accept the great beyond and let go of life, but got given a second chance. At that moment I actually wasn’t sure if he would choose the great beyond, but I think he chose life because he had changed and wanted to be connected to life (before he was wanting to reach the disconnected state of flow which was represented by the movie as a form of not living, when taken to an extreme).
By the end he changed to be present to life in it’s small beautiful ways, rather than feeling he had always missed his destiny, his purpose. He misunderstood what makes you complete, it isn’t purpose / destiny but simply a connection to life, to living.
22 changed because she experienced the sensuality of life. Her problem before was she had no sensations (other than hearing and seeing) in the pre world, only when she experienced sensation of taste and touch and physics (the way a seed spins in the wind and catches the light) did she find her spark. But she was always already capable of that, she just hadn’t had a chance to experience it and all her over achieving mentors gave her the idea she was essentially unworthy or unfit. So her change is one of growth, to start living, but in her essential nature she stays the same.
Haha, I could argue both ways.
What was the story goal? I always find that so hard.
It felt like it could be a success good?
Is it a time lock? Because the gig is at 9 (but is that the character’s subjective perception)? He has to meet the spinny board guy when the planets align at 6.30 (though that sounds more like an option lock, as it is all about the thinness of the layer between realms). Just read about the idea of a continuum rather than a limit and it just feels like what’s important in the story is space time. The guy searching for Joe is concerned with where he is, and its inevitable he will find him at some point in time, because he has to be somewhere. 22 has run out of options, having searched everywhere for her spark, everywhere except the last place she looks, earth. And Joe too is looking for a chance to play, and this gig is different…as the jazz singer says, he is looking for the ocean when he is already in the (ocean) water.
Is the relationship story between Joe and his mother?
I find assigning throughlines so difficult.
Is 22 in physics?
I haven’t seen the film, yet, but I have a husband that is big into jazz, spending each morning listening to some. I have no background in music, but isn’t music the all in all for some? Could there be two storyforms going on, overlaid? It sounds like the music is strong, and the life choices are like in romances with a quick fix to tie things up … haha. The quick tie up is usually the OS in romances, btw.
It didn’t feel like a quick fix really. It was a very profound film.
Edited to clarify: I misunderstood what you meant, that second chance at the end definitely felt a litlle easy!
After looking more into change and steadfast and stop and start, I feel like if you asked JOE mid movie, he would say he was a steadfast, stop character, a victim of external events just trying to hold onto life until those external forces stopped battering him. And I think 22 would say she was a change character, who needed to start doing or being something different, someone who had a spark. BUT I think OBJECTIVELY the message of the movie is that Joe brings all his problems upon himself, he is a CHANGE character whose problems come from internal sources, and he needs to STOP obsessing over the idea that one gig will allow him to die happy. And 22 is in fact someone who is the victim of all the mentoring and messages she is getting from outside herself, and from her situation somewhere where there are no sensations, who just needs to weather all that in order to stay true to who she really is, which is someone worthy of life, always already. She nearly changes, losing all of her personality and becoming a lost soul, but ultimately remains steadfast with a little help from Joe to shake off all that external conditioning.
Beautiful film, loved the messages explored, the themes… but yeah… Something happened in Act 4 that made it really muddy. A full analysis might reveal whether they made both characters change, or if it was just a weak growth of the Steadfast… or what.
My instinct when I saw it was that the MC element was something like Help or maybe Pursuit? … which could technically have worked if he’s Steadfast. Helping himself vs. helping others. A surplus of pursuing his dream to lack of pursuit, or pursuing something else. But MAYBE not totally flopping to Hinder or Avoid… But again–that’s an absolutely wild shot in the dark Problem element.
It did have strong spider-man vibes though, in the sense of Joe being caught up in Expectation … which if that were the case, i’d have a hard time seeing him remain steadfast. He’d definitely go to Determination. And then you have an IC and MC that both change.
As someone who actively works in animation, I can tell you there is a strong strong push right now for what they call a “Dual-Protagonist” dynamic, in which not only do both “Protagonists” change each other, but every character in the film has their own arc–almost like a little sub-movie. It usually doesn’t work out (obviously), and the story team tries to explain to the execs that it’ll never work, and there’s an 11th hour scramble to hide it with gags, and then it’s released.
I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think wanting to live was a source of conflict for Joe. His conflict has something to do with this purpose, or the meaning of life, or his expectations.
My suspicion is that Pixar was dealing with the biggest question we have ever asked ourselves: Why are we here? And while they made some compelling thematic arguments… how does one answer that?
The ambiguity may have been intentional, like you suggested–but unfortunately it makes for what appears to be an incomplete story.
My guess is that it comes from a combination of seeing the hero that changes others (I can’t remember what they call this, but it’s their version of steadfast) and a belief that the hero needs to change.
It’s like the trend I’m seeing on twitter, where people avoid thinking by saying, “Why not both?”
Instinctively, it feels like it should work—everyone wins! happy ending! But bletch.
Oh, well there definitely is that. I’ve come to know it as the misunderstanding of what an Arc is… and they for sure avoid thinking. They think they’re adding so much complexity to the movie (which they think makes it better, deeper) if everyone changes and everyone has an “arc” (which they mean to be their own mini-story and goals that happen concurrently with the “bigger film”
What ends up happening is, it’s a mess… there’s way too much to follow, and by the end of the film there’s no clear message. It ends up muddy, confusing, and people check out.
But this was a great movie! It is my feeling that it just hid the storyform really well behind our expectations that in American movies characters should never stop chasing their dreams (so we think Joe must be steadfast) and that people with a bad attitude need to change their minds (rather than society needs to stop screwing around with them). If you accept that Joe is the change character it feels better. He is the Scrooge getting a second chance to live life right.
I’m not saying the movie wasn’t beautiful and even at time moving. Just that from a structural standpoint, I got the feeling it was incomplete or “broken” …
I’d love to do a DUG style analysis of it if anyone’s down.
What you just said makes me wonder if Joe is Holistic, and comes to balance things as a steadfast character. I would lean toward him being Linear, though, because of that scene when he finally plays the gig, and all the subsequent scenes of the steps he has to get in place, the spatial arrangement of things that needs to happen for him to get back into his body, play the show, advance his career, etc. “I can’t go on stage like this, I need a haircut. So I need to go to the shop.”
Meanwhile, 22 is more holistic about her approach to things.
It definitely had Scrooge or Wonderful Life vibes to it, like you pointed out.
The problem with accepting that he’s the Change character is that 22 would have to have been Steadfast. But it’s hard to see her grow, rather than change, with such a tangible demonstration of her change (finally, and willingly leaping down to Earth to live).
Yeah, I know…I can see your point.
I cannot decide, and I can convince myself of a few things. For what it is worth my kids were ‘meh’ about this film. I loved the message to see the beauty in a simple sycamore leaf and stop pursuing a mirage. You’re already in the ocean!
I would love to follow along while we attempt to find out if there is a story form. Maybe it is broken but I’d love to think more about the elements that characterize Joe and 22.
Edit: also loved the angel type guy at the end laughing at humans and their linear minds. I think Joe represents linearity for sure. The whole movie felt like the unravelling of his justification “I could die happy if I played that gig”.
My kids had the same reaction. They enjoyed watching it, but have not really talked about it since. Maybe a line or two, or a moment they thought was funny… but this was no Toy Story or Frozen.
That ocean quote really got me too, as did the moment when he realizes life is about the little things. My guess is that it works down to the Issue level, but it would be impossible to solve the problem quads with making them work.
If that IS the case, it might be interesting to show how a movie can still have themes that resonate, but when it comes to character level stuff, it can fall apart in the end.
Good catch with that guy laughing at Joe’s linear way of thinking.
So setting aside the steadfast / change pieces…
What are the conversational descriptions of the throughlines?
OS: I always find this one so hard…Everyone is concerned with souls finding / fulfilling their life’s spark. It struck me that ending was a problem for everyone.
RS: accomplices to mentor / mentee? Or / and disconnected mother/ son to connected mother / son?
MC: “If I played that gig I could die happy.”
IC: You collect random crap that I realize too late is the meaning of life.
That sounded like my husband bursting out (as the credits were rolling) that Avatar was a “fantastic film”, however, he mentioned to me some years later that he doesn’t know why, but he really was not interested in seeing it again. He never talks about it, while he does bring up other films and their characters.
I haven’t seen the film yet, but could the intent be music as the steadfast character with Joe representing it?
Is it possible to wonder if the missing pieces were in a rough draft or on the editing floor?
A side thought why Soul might not resonate with kids: the MC is a middle aged guy trying to finally arrive and “make it” as a musician. A kid wouldn’t understand or care too much about that life position. I think maybe like Pixar’s Up, this one is more for the adults. Also, the appreciation of the little things isn’t really a useful message to kids - kids want a thing, a focus - whereas the stop and watch the little pedals fall is something you’d tell a middle age person spent chasing something too obsessively (like the hedge fund guy gag or the lost souls).