Jan 21, 2013

[Movies] Life of Pi (2012)

For one reason another, I missed out on posting a review of the book Life of Pi after I had read it a few years ago. I'll probably try to rectify that slip sometime in the new few weeks, although I already have quite a queue of books that I've finished reading this year that are competing for space.

I'll admit that I didn't exactly love the book the first time around. The mention of animals in it had me hoping for a story with a bit more whimsy and I ended up with a very serious book about survival at sea under rather unusual circumstances. And when I heard that a movie was going to be made based on the book, I had mixed feelings about how it might possibly go.

But by the time the first trailer came out, I was definitely intrigued as to what they had come up with. The colors seemed amazing vibrant compared to how I had initially imagined things while reading the book and it seemed to be a much more positive adventure indeed. It just goes to show how first impressions can color your perceptions down to how the visuals appear in your head.

My only regret at this point is that I've yet to watch the movie in 3D since none of the theaters in Cubao were showing it in that format.

Synopsis: Life of Pi is the 2012 movie based on the Yann Martel book of the same name. The book had won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the Ang Lee directed movie has already received numerous nominations from various award-giving bodies. The screenplay had been developed by David Magee.

The movie starts with Indian immigrant Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) talking to a writer (Rafe Spall) who had been referred to Pi to hear an incredible story. The writer hopes to find some inspiration for a book and Pi offers a story that would help him believe in God, as it were. Starting with how he acquired his unique name to his search for meaning by experimenting with various religions, we come to better understand Pi and his unique view of the world.

But things get truly interesting when he hear of how him and his family try to migrate to Canada by selling all of the animals of their zoo. It is during this long ocean voyage that tragedy strikes and their ship meets with a fierce storm. The end result is Pi (Suraj Sharma) being the only survivor on a lifeboat that he shares with an orangutan, an injured zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Now this is no Disney adventure, so do not expect anthropomorphic animals that speak, sing or dance. Instead we have a serious effort to depict that wild animals as authentically as possible with the aid of CGI, animatronics and of course trained talents as well. This is not to say that they don't have their own characterization in the story - each animal has a sort of lesson that they carry with them as part of Pi's ordeal.

Many folks might try to compare this movie to Castaway, another survival movie with seemingly similar themes. But this is a very different story, one that incorporates Pi's search for meaning and his efforts to define his personal spiritual path in life with his efforts to survive acting as a catalyst for many changes in him. But unlike Castaway, this movie comes with a greater sense of magical wonder that helps balance the stark reality that he is against rather incredible odds.

The visuals in this movie are quite frankly breathtaking and I certainly give credit to Ang Lee for coming up with this unique vision of Pi's journey. Even without the 3D this movie has so much to offer in terms of rich colors that match the moods and themes in the movie plus the ways each animal has so much presence without resorting to giving them dialog or something silly like that.

I must admit that the movie helped make this story more palatable for me and defied how I had imagined the story initially. Normally I'll argue that the book is always better than the movie, but appear to have been mistaken with respect to this movie. Words fail me.

Life of Pi is a brilliant movie that was masterfully out together as an artist would complete a painting or a sculpture. It's a powerful story about faith and belief and a rather ferocious Bengal Tiger. The movie gets 5 gorgeous animal shots in the opening credits alone out of a possible 5.

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