Soul tackles some fairly adult themes about death, the afterlife, and finding one's soul in this new, spectacular film from Pixar and Disney. With an all-star voice cast, some of the best visuals from a Pixar movie thus far, and one impressive jazz score, Soul is a dynamite hit. This 1080p HD transfer is super, as is the lossless DTS-HD 7.1 audio mix that just brightens up the universe with music and meaning. There are plenty of great extras as well. Must-Own!
Since 1995, Pixar has been the leading movie studio that consistently churns out top-of-the-line animation, delivers iconic characters, and provides funny, important, and heartbreaking stories while being critically and financially successful. They’re far from flawless as Cars 2, Cars 3, and The Good Dinosaur didn’t exactly stick their landing for either trying to push toy sales or try something different – but for each failed attempt, there are a handful of Pixar movies that completely knock it out of the park. Pixar has a remarkable formula that somehow manages to stay fresh and original, tickling that funny bone and conjuring up ugly cries with almost every film, whether it be Coco, Up, or Wall-E. Their themes and tone can be consumed by adults and kids alike, never playing it down to any age or background. Pixar’s newest film – Soul, is their most ambitious, poignant, and wonderful collage of humor, sadness, and straight-up wackiness that somehow manages to meld together into one of their best films to date.
Soul is directed by Pete Doctor and co-directed by Kemp Powers. The former made Inside Out and Up for Pixar, two very emotional films that tackle some truly sad material, but never-the-less the ins and outs of life growing up, getting older, and more. Their screenplay equally tells a fantastic tale with many genre elements that seamlessly and easily tells a complex story on multiple planes of existence while still having a good sense of humor and sense of wonder of what it’s like in the beyond with some psychedelic animation in tow. Not only that, the film is centered in the African American culture that features a great diverse voice cast and gives a great look inside the cultural hub of a black man living in NYC, pursuing his dream in the Jazz world that brings about the musical and spiritual nature of a human rather than a racial one.
Soul follows Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) who makes ends meet as a part-time middle-school band teacher, where he enlightens and inspires the kids about music, jazz, and playing instruments. He’s really wonderful at this job. This particular day, the principal offers Joe a full-time gig, teaching the kids with full salary and benefits, but he also lands an audition with the famous jazz saxophonist Dorothea Williams (Angela Basset) – something he’s been wanting to a part of for many years. He can’t do both. After some good news from Dorothea, Joe’s life almost stands still as he’s so overwhelmed with joy that he seems untouchable. He avoids being hit by cars, slipping on banana peels, being hit by falling debris from skyscrapers until he slips and falls into an uncovered sewer hole, which puts him into a state of consciousness that is neither really living nor dead at the moment.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Soul lifts its way to Disney Video with excellent technical specs. This set includes the two Blu-ray Discs, a DVD copy, and the Digital Code. All three discs are housed in a hard, blue, plastic case with a cardboard sleeve featuring the artwork of the two main leads in various forms, which is the same as the 4K release. There is an insert for a digital code as well, along with Disney promos.
Soul climbs its way to a 1080p HD transfer from Disney and is one of the best-looking Pixar movies to date. Both its beautiful color palette and attention to detail are unmatched elsewhere. While its 4K UHD presentation has a great upgrade with its HDR and ore nuanced detail elements, this Blu-ray is as flawless and pitch-perfect as it is in Ultra-High Definition.
This color palette pulls from the entire color spectrum and uses different modes of and mixtures to create these separate worlds of the big, bustling city and the stillness and serene pastures of the Great Before. The pastel and quit colors of soft blues, purples, and greens look exquisite in the Great Before, all blending into one cohesive and comforting color palette with little pops of black and white for the eyes. This contrasts nicely with the more earthy tones and bright orange, red, and yellows of the city life with fall-like colors, surrounding the characters. The image changes a little bit when inside the jazz club which accentuates all modes of red and amber while keeping all the skin tones natural. Black levels are deep and inky as well with no murkiness detected.
The detail is extremely sharp and vivid in this animated movie where individual facial hairs on Joe and the cat are easily distinguishable. The textures of the skin from the human characters to the souls are remarkable as well. Even the fine stitching in the sweaters and fancy dresses at the jazz club is easily seen and excellent. Wider shots of the city and The Great Before are never soft, but rather showcase some excellent detail in the background, making for some very good depth. There were one or two very short seconds of some mild banding during some of the darker sequences, but it was barely noticeable. That being said, this 1080p HD transfer on Blu-ray is something to cherish from Disney.
This Blu-ray release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio track, which sounds amazing. It's just a great as the 4K Disc's Dolby Atmos, but sans the height speakers, which does bring a great and needed element in certain scenes. It's interesting that the Dolby Atmos track was NOT included on the Blu-ray version. That being the case, however, this 7.1 audio option is superb. This is not a Pixar film that relies on big action sequences, explosions, big car chases. This is a more subtle and quiet film that delivers more on story and meaning, but that doesn't subtract any sound of volume here.
The sound effects are amazingly balanced and nuanced on each speaker, whether it be a music note being played on the piano, a soul yelling in the background, or channeling voices from around a room that make this soundscape come alive. The glorious Jazz score just owns the soundtrack every time it pops up from the low end of bass that rumbles its way throughout the room to those high notes on the piano and trombone - it all sounds perfect. Atmospheric sounds of people on the street and music coming from stores and clubs all sound robust and the dialogue is always clean and clear, free of any audio issues.
There are about 73 minutes of bonus features included in this set, including some behind the scenes, interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, and a great commentary track with the filmmakers. These are better than the average Pixar and Disney bonus feature that's been coming out on recent releases. There are a few extras located on the Blu-ray Feature Film Disc with the rest of them getting their own extra disc, making this a three-disc set.
Soul is one of the top Pixar films to date, both on a technical level and a story and character element, where it perfectly blends a masterful story for all ages with some important themes and a truly fantastic jazz score. It's simply fantastic. The 1080p HD video and the DTS-HD 7.1 audio track are amazing, and the bonus features are all worth the time and effort this go-around. MUST-OWN!