Which to watch: “Soul” vs. “Wonder Woman 1984”

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GRAPHIC BY ELIZA BROWN

Choosing between Disney Pixar’s “Soul” and Warner Bro’s “Wonder Woman 1984” is more than simply choosing an animated or super hero movie. Even if animated movies aren’t you’re go to, the fully realized characters and sentimental story of “Soul” is a far better choice than the dull, overly long disaster that is “Wonder Woman 1984.”

2020 is finally over, and it is safe to assume that much of the population has watched an almost frightening amount of TV in the past 12 months. Having exhausted the seemingly endless shows across streaming platforms, the release of Warner Bros. Entertainment’s “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max and Disney-Pixar’s “Soul” on Disney+ came as a relief to many in need of new entertainment. But which should you watch? Which movie could best close out such a memorable year?

“Wonder Woman” and “Soul” essentially boil down to the same point: appreciate what you have when you have it and strive to look at issues from perspectives other than your own. With such similar themes, you’d think that the choice between the two would come down to whether you prefer superhero or animated movies. However, after watching both, I can confidently tell you that you will be much happier selecting “Soul.” It excels in each area where “Wonder Woman” fell flat, and while by no means a perfect film, is certainly the better choice to ring in the new year.

Let’s get it out of the way: “Wonder Woman 1984” wasn’t that good. The plot felt haphazard and was difficult to follow. Gal Gadot’s and Chris Pine’s characters were underdeveloped and had predictable motivations. With two top-tier actors, Kristin Wiig and Pedro Pascal, seemingly vying for the position of the villain in the film, the story felt particularly unbalanced. If one character had been the lead villain and thus fleshed out more substantially, the film would have had a much firmer foundation to work from. Unfortunately, director Patty Jenkins decided to juggle both villains, creating a film that couldn’t contain the stories of both characters.

There was no villain character, per se, in “Soul,” unless you find strict afterlife accountants with Australian accents particularly intimidating. Instead, viewers watched as Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) and Soul 22 (Tina Fey) hilariously attempted to navigate the world of the living in an attempt to get Joe’s soul back into his body before his big performance. Both characters felt fully established, and their intentions were clear. It was heartwarming to watch Fey’s 22 begin to see the beauty of life, as well as witness Joe realize that it was the little moments in life that mattered most. There was no such poignancy in “Wonder Woman.”

That isn’t to say that there weren’t similarities between the two films. Both involved a lot of walking, for starters. In “Wonder Woman,” it seemed as though each plot point needed to be interspersed with at least 30 seconds of the titular character walking around Washington, D.C. (a need that most certainly led to the film’s frankly ridiculous run time of two hours and 35 minutes). By contrast, the walking scenes in “Soul” served as the way for both audiences and Joe himself to see the value in appreciating the moments in life we take for granted, like watching a maple seed fall from a tree or the joy of biting into a piece of pizza.

Cats also served as plot points in both movies. Wiig’s transformation into the supervillain Cheetah in the latter half of “Wonder Woman 1984” felt predictable and underwhelming. In her final battle against Diana (Gal Gadot), it was difficult to feel any emotion because the audience knew so little about Wiig’s character, and the ambiguous ending alluding to the retainment of her powers felt like a cheap setup for the next movie in the franchise.

Pixar’s decision to have Joe’s soul mistakenly placed in the body of a cat for half the film, while a bit gimmicky, ended up working with the overall tone of the movie fairly well. The appearance of a cat didn’t seem implausible in terms of the plot, and the cat suited the style of the movie much better. As we all learned from watching “Cats,” live-action movies should steer away from attempting to create a combined human and feline look.

What ultimately makes “Soul” the better movie is its overarching tone. Both shared themes and morals that were particularly relevant for the events of 2020, but only “Soul” felt truly timely. Foxx’s character learned the importance of appreciating the small things in life, as many have in 2020, whereas “Wonder Woman” more resembled the state of confusion that many have tried to escape this year. So, if you want to start 2021 with a feeling of clarity, head over to Disney+ for your next family movie night and enjoy “Soul.”