Fresh on 4K: Pixar’s ‘SOUL’ brings a spark of life to 4K

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James Clay // Film Critic

SOUL

Rated PG, 96 minutes.
Director: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Rachel House, Graham Norton

Film Grade: B

SOUL, the latest from PIXAR, is a beautiful film…aesthetically. Pete Docter has a reputation for going deeper into the symbolic aspects of what makes us human; if you saw INSIDE OUT, you get the idea. With SOUL, the designs have never been more perfectly realized, from the way the jazz icon Dorthea Williams (Angela Bassett) blows on the saxophone to the two-dimensional abstraction of the Jerries. Us humans can’t comprehend all these concepts in a mere 90-minute film, but SOUL attempts to abstract some of these more advanced concepts.

Outdated body swap politics lead to the strange decision to have a middle-aged white lady (Tina Fey) coming out of Pixar’s first African American lead (Jamie Foxx). At best, it’s a dubious choice.

Despite miscasting and a lack of conviction at the core of the film, Pete Docter’s film has several scenes that touch greatness. The barbershop scene naturally captures spontaneous moments that are one of the crown jewels in the Pixar canon.

Working in conjunction with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ synth-heavy score, contemporary jazz musician Jon Batiste’s excellent arrangements never get the chance to open up fully. SOUL is Pixar’s most beautiful film to date, bridging the questions about the purpose we face daily with concepts that are appealing to the eye. Sadly, there’s something that’s missing. 

Audio/Visual Grade: A

In the past, Disney 4K transfers (mainly with live-action films) never felt like proper HDR resolution. There has been a stink of upscaling that hurt several releases, but not with SOUL. The presentation crystallizes the film’s deep blue color palette to create an image that’s soothing and has the goods to allow the viewer to ascend cinematically. Like a few recent releases, we reviewed some scenes that can be murky that are shot in the dark, losing the immersive effect that we get in the theater. With SOUL, the cinematic experience is intact visually. 

Included on the 4K is a Dolby Atmos audio track that this reviewer could not fully utilize. But with a pretty solid soundbar, the score and ambient sounds of the afterlife come through beautifully. The audio/visual component of SOUL is one of Disney’s best or any 4K release in 2021. 

Photo Courtesy of The Walt Disney Company

The Special Features Grade: A-

Surprisingly, these releases offer up a satisfying dive into the film itself. There’s plenty of thought that went into putting these features together, from a commentary by Pete Docter (which is always a plus) to a few ideas from Jamie Foxx on bringing Pixar’s first black lead to the screen. And lastly, for those interested, the release comes with a slipcover. 

  • Audio Commentary with Pete Docter
  • Deleted Scenes: 22 minutes that were cut from the final film
  • Not Your Average Joe: See The Creation of Pixar’s first black character
  • Astral Taffy: Get an in-depth look at the film’s artistic and technical innovation 
  • Pretty Deep For A Cartoon
  • Into The Zone: The Music and Sound of SOUL
  • And more

Rent/Buy/Leave it?

SOUL is already on Disney Plus with a subscription. While that’s where most people watched the film, the 4K release is a chance to see the uncompressed glory of the film. With the packaging, special features, and audio/visual quality is top-notch, this is worth buying. 

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.