Pixar has long-since made its mark as the studio that brings us whimsical, allegorical animated movies that pack an emotional punch, and Soul was no exception. Released on December 25th, Soul is the story of a man whose passion for jazz music takes him on an adventure through the afterlife. It was lauded for its character design and artistic take on existential questions, including what the purpose of life is, and how we delineate the lines between passion and obsession.
But let’s put all that aside for a moment to talk about the plot holes. Soul left us with a lot of unanswered questions. It was a lovely movie with enchanting visuals, but the mechanics of its world break down in the third act, leaving us scratching our heads. Here’s some of the biggest unanswered questions we have about Soul. Warning: MAJOR spoilers ahead!
1) Where is Björn Börgensson?
When Joe escapes to the Great Before, he poses as a mentor, renowned child psychologist named Björn Börgensson. He grabs the name badge, sits in on a seminar, and is paired with Soul 22, kicking off the movie’s central plot. But at no point does anyone ask where Björn Börgensson actually is. Is he lost? Don’t they keep track of every single soul? Terry, the accountant, notices right away that Joe is missing, but is completely mum when it comes to figuring out the whereabouts of Björn Börgensson’s soul.
Our answer: Björn Börgensson, as a brilliant child psychologist, knew that Soul 22 wouldn’t be swayed by normal methods… and purposefully let Joe take over his mentorship duties because he thought Joe’s unqualified, unique approach would work. It did. Björn Börgensson was in on it all along!
2) Where are all the animal souls?
We know animals have souls because we see a brief, humorous shot of the soul of Mr. Mittens on the afterlife bridge. But we never see any other animal souls. If we’d never seen Mr. Mittens, we wouldn’t lose sleep over it, but now that we know animals (well, at least cats) have souls, we want to know why there were zero animals on the bridge earlier. Is Mr. Mittens a special cat? Do other animals not have souls? What’s going on with animal souls, anyway? The shot of Mr. Mittens looking a little lost after getting kicked out of his body is cute, but raises more questions than it answers.
Our answer: Animals have a different bridge than humans. Mr. Mittens ends up on the human bridge because he’s kicked out by Joe, a human soul, who is the one who is meant to be there.
3) After his return to Earth, does Joe die while playing the piano?
After suffering multiple injuries that send him to the afterlife (one when he falls into a manhole, and another when he collapses in the subway), Joe finally returns to his body on Earth. He settles down to play the piano, and enters “The Zone,” where he discovers that Soul 22 is lost. He chases after her, eventually returning to the Great Before. Now, that’s all well and good, but what the hell is happening to Joe’s body on Earth? Is he in a trance-like state, his soulless body playing piano like a zombie? Or did he collapse again from all the physical brain damage he’s suffered? If someone walks into his home, will they find him on the floor, twitching lifelessly?
Our answer: Mr. Mittens to the rescue! Since Joe’s soul is off on another adventure and we hate the idea of Joe collapsing on the floor of his apartment due to brain damage, we’re going to go ahead and say that the cat jumped into his body to play the piano for him while he was wrangling 22 away from her own insecurities. Don’t think too hard about it. It’s canon now.
4) Where does the Earth Pass come from in the final scene?
Joe returns to his body on Earth using 22’s Earth Pass. There, he plays piano, enters The Zone, and discovers 22 is a lost soul. He chases her down and offers her his Earth Pass, which would allow her to go to Earth and trap Joe in the Great Before.
Now, this raises a LOT of questions. First of all, are you telling us that Earth Passes don’t get “used up” on the trip to Earth? Also, why are they transferable at all, if they only become valid when a soul finds its spark? What happens if you lose your Earth Pass? Do you get stuck in limbo? The sudden appearance of the Earth Pass after Joe has already returned to Earth is immensely confusing. Also, if 22 took the pass and Joe wasn’t granted one, does that mean Joe’s body dies or that 22 would be forced to occupy Joe’s body and pick up his life where he left off?
Our answer: We think everyone’s Earth Pass is tied to a body, in the same way a car’s registration is tied to a car. The reason Joe and 22 were able to exchange the Earth Pass was because they had, in the course of the movie, occupied the same body. If Earth Passes remain with a soul even in the Zone, rather than thinking you can lose them, we like to think they remain tied to your soul (and its body) and can’t be lost, and Joe’s ability to remove his and offer it to another soul was unique to him and 22.
(Of course, there’s a darker implication here: if Earth Passes are tied to bodies but don’t become valid until a soul finds its “spark,” does that mean, on Earth, bodies are born without souls and only become occupied at some unspecified time post-birth?)
5) How does Moonwind’s ship “sink” in The Zone?
We have a LOT of questions about the ship itself — Where did it come from? What is it made of? — but the biggest one is how the ship “sinks” in The Zone when nothing else sinks, and also, how does Moonwind “sink” with it, despite having walked around on the surface earlier in the movie? We know that The Zone is supposed to be undefined, but the question of whether it’s an ocean, desert, or something else is never really consistent and that left us wondering what was going on there.
Our answer: Moonwind was clearly smoking some particularly groovy ganja. Maybe the ship sinking was a metaphysical representation of Moonwind coming down from his high.
6) How does 22 become a lost soul, though?
I know there’s a throwaway line about how, now that she’s technically lived, she can become a lost soul… but that makes no sense because she has no body. The Zone is literally defined as the space “between” the physical and spiritual world, but 22 doesn’t occupy the physical world at all anymore… so what’s with that?
Our answer: Moonwind was mistaken that living is a condition that’s necessary to become a lost soul. Unborn souls can enter The Zone via The Box; so, maybe all souls can become lost, even if they’ve never lived before. Thanks to the gentle shepherding of the Jerrys, however, most unborn souls never end up in this in-between space.
7) When Joe ACTUALLY dies, won’t it throw off the count?
Joe is returned to Earth thanks to one of the Jerrys fudging the accountant’s soul count when he isn’t looking. This gives Joe a second chance. But there’s a problem here. When Joe finally dies, and ends up facing the Afterlife, the accountant will now have an extra soul. What happens then? Will Joe be able to reach the Afterlife if the count is messed up? Won’t Terry feel betrayed knowing that he was lied to by his co-workers? Is it really responsible to mess up the spiritual soul count just to give a single random guy a second chance after he’s suffered like a dozen concussions on Earth?
Our answer: We think that when Joe dies, one of the Jerrys will have to pull another fast one on Terry in order to set the count right again. Maybe when accident-prone Joe falls over again, one of the Jerrys will flit up to accounting with an iced mocha to distract Terry so that they can put Joe back into the system properly.
Pixar’s Soul is currently streaming on Disney+.