Life of Pi

Visually magnificent story about a young man and a tiger in a stranded boat, which was considered unfilmable.

Director: Ang Lee | Stars: Suraj Sharma

Budget: 120 million | Box office: 450 million

IMDb: 8.3 (#179) | Metacritic: 79

Life of Pi, Ang Lee

As much as I liked Yan Martel‘s novel of the same name, I somehow can‘t really understand such a broad appeal and critical acclaim for Ang Lee‘s movie. I imagined it will be a niche film and will be interesting only to specific audiences, but here it goes competing for the best movie of the year and collecting other 10 Oscar nominations. All of that is great news of course and Ang Lee deserves all the praise and success not only for this, but for all other works – I‘ll be forever grateful for his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which opened martial arts genre to modern broad audiences and lifted it‘s image to such a spiritual state. Probably that‘s why I expected Life of Pi to be just like it became, which means not much surprise was left.

I suppose the book is to blame. It‘s probably the first time I think, that without reading the book, Life of Pi movie would leave much bigger impression. And reading it afterwards with more details and fully-fledged portraits of both the guy and the tiger would be a tremendous experience, which I urge everyone to do.

I liked that Ang Lee managed to reach a balance between three parts of the book – before the journey, in the sea and the retelling of the story. The book I think actually has too many details in the beginning, which when you read later makes more sense, but in the movie would be lost anyway, so it‘s good that more time is left for the main thing – a lonely boat in the sea with a young Indian guy and a tiger from the zoo.

Both of them are unique characters in their own way. The role of Pi was entrusted to a newcomer, the guy who, as far as I know, just came to audition accompanying his brother and was selected from 3000 participants. He fits the role perfectly and has put a lot of effort preparing for it. The tiger Richard Parker was impressively created by the efforts of visual effects company Rhythm and Hues, which was approached by Ang Lee because they created the first Narnia and a titular lion character. Interestingly all the main work was done in various studios‘ Asian subsidiaries, thus probably helping to keep a consistent style. Again as with Hobbit‘s Gollum, Richard Parker is an obvious example how much the CGI technologies jumped in almost a decade. It was really a marvel to watch all the changes the tiger went through in this long and exhausting journey.

I loved the general visual style too. From the trailers it seemed that all the film will be kind of overstyled, all fairy tale like. But such treatment is given to the sea scenes and it‘s a great way to create kind of enclosed and personal universe, separated from the rest of the world. It really translates the feeling of the novel perfectly. And the film again proved, at least for me, that Avatar 3D equipment is still the most impressive and cinematic, even compared with Hobbit‘s HFR hi-tech. Now I‘m curious to see how both technologies will work for Avatar sequels.

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