Life of Pi written by David Magee (screenplay) and Yann Martel (novel), directed by Ang Lee (Fox 2000 Pictures, Haishang Films, Rhythm and Hues, PG, 127 minutes)
Starring Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, and Adil Hussain.
Better than the Book
So often you’ll hear from the average snooty moviegoer the statement, “the book was better than the movie.” Without thinking it, they’ve failed to realize that the movie and the novel are two different media, with two different sets of judging criterion. That being said, while committing the same fallacy the snooty moviegoer has made, I think the movie Life of Pi is far better than the book, and perhaps, should have always been intended for the visual medium instead of print. Director Ang Lee does a marvelous job of telling the story, and, in addition, the film is a landmark achievement of visual effects.
For those that don’t know from the movie’s previous incarnation as a novel by Yann Martel, Life of Pi is about a young boy, Piscine, who later renames himself “Pi” to avoid getting made fun of by the school children (Piscine, which is French for swimming pool, sounds more like the slang for urine to the boys who speak English). Pi, coincidentally enough, is a boy who refuses to accept any limitations upon himself, and as a result, the name Pi, the unending mathematical number, is a fitting replacement. Piscine grows up tending a zoo with his family in Pondichery, India. Unfortunately, the zoo goes broke, and the family makes the regrettable decision to sell it, and ship the more valuable animals to a zoo in Canada.
The weather hits, and through a series of nasty falls, the young boy Pi (Richard Sharma), a Zebra, an Orangutan, a Hyena, and a Tiger all wind up in a life boat in high seas drifting away from the cargo carrier. The last scene of the ship is one of the vessel silently floating down to the sea floor while Pi wails, asking the gods, or anyone, for his family to be safe as the lights in the ship gently flicker into nothingness.
Pi is then stuck on a life raft for 227 days, which could make for an extremely boring movie, but what makes his journey fantastical is that he shares it with a Tiger whom he named “Richard Parker.” Pi manages to find ways to manage the space of the small boat and get the Tiger to respect him as much as possible. Still trying not to spoil the movie for anyone, the visual effects that are employed are simply stunning. From the incredible fury of the storm to the still quietness of the night sky, to bioluminescent jellyfish, the movie simply stuns. In print, unless you have the imagination of a child, or the visual memory of a well-traveled soul, the book lacks the awe the movie presents. Ang Lee also manages to capture the vastness of the ocean, with shots of the lifeboat stilly floating, like a black speck on a sheet of white paper.
There are also parts of the story which make the viewer ask, “is it real?” We begin to wonder whether or not Pi’s story is a concocted story to make it more palpable than the horrors of what actually happened at sea. Pi, in the beginning of the movie, tells us that his story will undoubtedly “make you believe in God.” With visual effects like the ones that Ang Lee presents, it’s no wonder, if it happened in real life, why he would think it to be the case. There’s a reason why Life of Pi won four academy awards, including best director. It’s a worthwhile jaunt down a wonder-inducing visual spectacle.
Verdict: 4 out of 5