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“Life of Pi” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

November 14, 2012

I have NEVER read the Yann Martel novel the film is based off on, so lets get that off the table. This review is purely based on me seeing a movie that looks wondrous from the trailers. “Life of Pi” is a two-hour orgasm on the eyes; fantastic visual effects, by far the BEST use of 3D since “Avatar”. The acting was well adjusted, however the story was so-so in my honest opinion. I am by no means a spiritual or religious man, so forgive me for not jumping on the religious bandwagon. Nevertheless, its intentions are pure and you have to give credit where credit is due.

The films lead character, Pi (Irrfan Khan), tells his harrowing story to a Canadian author (Rafe Spall) about a time when he was a younger man (Suraj Sharma), during the long period of time when he was left all alone in the middle of the pacific, with an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, after his families ship was sunk by a horrific storm. Pi and Richard Parker start out as polar opposites, one is higher in the food chain than the other, so you can imagine the complications. But with Pi’s determination and strong will to live, he and Richard Parker find a kinship in a long journey of recovery and in a sense rebirth.

Let me first state the obvious, I did like the movie, I really did. I found it thoroughly entertaining; the visual effects were some of the best I’ve ever seen. The 3D was finally utilized properly; I cannot believe it took us nearly three years to get 3D right again. The movie shows realistic dimension and depth, new forms of the 3D camera work was developed for this production, it shows. Ang Lee takes on a project that I think is his most challenging one yet. In every visual and aesthetic standpoint this movie is aces. But, my issue with the movie does fall under its narrative.

Look you can defend this movie all you want, but in my own opinion, this movies narrative was nothing more than a glorified update to the “Cast Away” story, instead of a volleyball it’s a Bengal tiger. The narrative structure is pretty much the same thing. When a fish out of water cast away is stuck in the middle of nowhere, with only the resources he has given him, it’s his strong will to make it home is what keeps him going. Yes, the tiger does play a more interregnal part than what Wilson did in “Cast Away”, but the basic principal between both movies is the same. And maybe it’s just me, but I found the bouncing back and forth between present and past made the movie a bit disjointing. We all know he’s going to make it in the end, for God sake, he’s telling the flippin’ story.

However, the movie does something that I really liked, it’s ending. The ending leaves you questioning yourself as well as Pi. In the grand scheme of his adventure, there are two versions, they both begin and end the same way, the question is which one do you prefer? Naturally, the choice everyone makes is the one we just saw, but in actuality the answer is neither one. It really doesn’t matter which ones the truth and which ones the false, the point was that he made it on his own terms, Pi survived, he was the strongest person, and whether you want to turn to God as the answer to his survival is all up to interpretation by every viewer.

The movies themes of religion and the belief of a higher power caught me by surprise, again I didn’t read the book, so at times I found myself challenged to connect to the character of Pi. But, you cannot deny the awesomeness of his tale and the journey he and a tiger go through to live another day. With powerhouse visuals and a strong direction by Lee, “Life of Pi” will certainly draw attention to the Thanksgiving day crowds, not a single moment in the movie is dull, that much I can promise you.

3D GRADE: A

MOVIE GRADE: B-

OVERALL GRADE: B

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