‘Soul’ and ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ — two major films in local cinemas right now

JANUARY 9 — There are films that do just fine being viewed in the comforts of your own home, whether through streaming, downloads or physical copies of the films. 

With staying and working from home being the new norm in the Age of Covid-19, watching films at home is pretty much the only thing we can do when it comes to experiencing new movies. 

But with the recovery movement control order (RMCO) in place in most parts of the country and only a few parts being placed under either the conditional movement control order (CMCO) or the enhanced movement control order (EMCO), cinemas in parts of the country under RMCO have been allowed to open, albeit very slowly.

Looking at the cinema listings for this week, there are eight movies playing right now, with only two of them anywhere close to qualifying as being a major studio release — Wonder Woman 1984 and the latest Pixar film Soul. 

Of course, these two can also be found on streaming platforms, HBO Max for Wonder Woman 1984 and Disney+ for Soul, a simultaneous online and cinema release strategy that no one thought would ever be accepted prior to Covid-19.

But with cinemas still mostly closed and no other way to release their movies, this shattering of cinema and digital release windows is the only way the movie industry can adapt and hope to survive in the face of a global pandemic. 

So pick your poison, be it in cinemas or at home via streaming, but if you need to make a choice between the two, read on to find out what I think about these two major movies.

Soul

Pixar movies, thanks to their committee approach to crafting storylines and plots, have always been impressively neat and tidy when it comes to their narrative flow, internal logic and world building. 

Whether it’s talking toys, monsters, cars, dinosaurs and even emoting emotions, there’s always a remarkable clarity to the concepts they’re presenting, and a logic and consistency in their world building that doesn’t easily fall prey to things like plot holes and gaps in logic (relative to the film’s concept, of course).

Soul, their latest magical movie miracle, however, is one beautifully messy movie. It is even more ambitious than the already ambitious Inside Out (which is basically a movie about how emotions have emotions too), this time imagining not only the Great Beyond (what happens after our death) but also the Great Before (what happens before we’re born). 

If that is not difficult enough to get to grips with conceptually, then its main character’s dilemma of whether to keep chasing his gig-economy dreams of being a jazz musician or take an uninspiring staff teaching job with good benefits, in what is technically a children’s film, is one hell of a brave move.

In short, this is probably the most mature and introspective film that Pixar has ever made so far, with writer-director Pete Docter using the whole Great Beyond and Great Before thing to throw the characters (and us) into all sorts hilarious shenanigans, before ambushing the audience with some truly moving, beautiful and heartfelt moves late in the film. 

Like the jazz music that the hero here loves, the movie has the feel of a great improvisation, full of unpredictable, weird but delightful turns that are clearly nowhere near neat and tidy, but is a thing of great beauty nonetheless.

Wonder Woman 1984

Like probably a lot of other men in the world, I’d watch anything with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in it just for her sheer beauty, although it did help that the first Wonder Woman film turned out to be quite an enjoyable ride in terms of simple, old school, superhero movie pleasures. 

In a very difficult year for a lot of people, faced with a global pandemic, a good superhero movie should be just the thing we need to distract and inspire us, and provide us with at least some semblance of happiness.

Alas, Wonder Woman 1984 is not that movie, at least not for the whole of its 151-minute runtime. 

At some moments, especially during the first two acts, it reminds the audience of the tacky and cheesy delights of the 80s, not only in the clothes and production design, but also in its decision to mirror the look and feel (right down to the acting style) of Richard Donner’s Superman movies, with parts of the plot even recalling some parts of Superman II.

But a lot of its overlong runtime is bogged down by gaping plot holes, poor gaps in logic, not to mention the many bewildering choices made by its characters that at first we’re more than happy to excuse (because we are, after all, watching a superhero movie) but begins to get even more distracting and annoying as the movie progresses. 

Very clearly not in the same league as the first Wonder Woman movie, Wonder Woman 1984 is still quite watchable, but it’s one of those movies that you’ll probably never want to watch again, no matter how much of a crush you may have on Gal Gadot.

Related Articles