Saturday, 8 December 2012

Life of Pi

Life of Pi, 2012
Directed by Ang Lee

Life of Pi is that book, up here in Canada, that you read in high school. Or at least in my high school you did. I remember my friends constantly complaining about this book, and how it's about a boy named Pi and he's on a raft with a hyena, zebra, Orangutan , and a tiger named Richard Parker. I also heard about how it was boring, and they were over-analyzing it way too much. This was back 5 years ago. Since then, when I was seeing what all movies were coming out this year, I heard once again about Life of Pi. My boyfriend, his brother and father really enjoyed the book, and since I was aiming to read a lot of the books that were to become films this year (I read Silver Linings Playbook, Anna Karenina, The Hobbit), I decided to pick up Life of Pi.

Life of Pi tells the story about a young boy named Pi. He was raised in India by his family. His family owned a zoo, and Pi loved the animals. He also loved religion, and he finds himself practicing Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism. He is chastized for following several religions, people telling him that you "if you believe in everything, you believe in nothing". But Pi stuck to his love for God (in whichever religion that happened to be in). When Pi is older, times are hard for his family and the zoo. They end up packing up themselves and the animals so they can move to Winnipeg, Canada and start a new life, and sell of the animals in North America, where they will go for more money. They head off on a large boat, a Japanese boat, and head for Canada. But along the way, the ship sinks. And it's only survivors are Pi, and a few of the animals, stuck in the life raft. And soon, it's only Pi, and the tiger he's been afraid of since he was a child, Richard Parker.

I was so skeptical when I heard this movie was coming out, and while I was reading the book. And I was even more skeptical when I heard it would be released in 3D. So many movies are coming out where 3D is unnecessary (Twilight, etc). And after I finished the book, I didn't  really know how they'd do it to make it that interesting. And then the trailer came out not too long after, and all of a sudden, I knew it would be a movie to watch out for. It looked incredible.

And indeed, upon seeing the movie in theatres last weekend, it did indeed look incredible. There were several times during the film where I would just utter "wow" to myself because there were so many incredible scenes. Shots like Pi under the water after the ship has sank, and he see's the boat, the lights flickering and dying. Or just being on the raft, a shot of the raft from above, and the water is so still it reflects the morning sky so it looks like they're floating in the sky. So many trippy, yet incredible shots. And it was so interesting to see how packed out the theater was. Though when I thought about it, it wasn't surprising. I live in an area in Ontario where there's a very high population of Indian families, many of them immigrants (or at least the parents are). So needless to say, a movie about a boy raised in India, coming to Canada (and playing at a theater where we show Bollywood films, and the snack stand is offered in English and in another Indian language), it wasn't surprising the film was packed out.

And what I loved overall about the film, was that it felt like I was watching the book being literally translated to the screen. Sure, there were a few differences for sure, like Pi having a girlfriend, and the part with the whale, but overall, I have never seen a more closely adapted book-movie translation (or not that I can remember). Ang Lee stayed incredibly close to the source material, and the movie benefits so much from that. The book is chock full of religion, and I'm very happy that Lee kept it all in.

It was also a thinking mans movie. It makes you think about God, and the way we look at religion. And while Pi's point is that it doesn't matter what religion you practice, it's about loving God, and all religions bring you to God (which is something I don't quite agree with), but makes you think about where God fits in in this world. Many people dismiss him altogether. Or many people try to exclude him from things like movies, or from being upfront. And Life of Pi brought it front and center, which was very brave.

The acting by first time actor, Suraj Sharma, was very good. Nothing was incredibly overacted, nor could you tell that this was Sharma's first ever film. He was able to carry the film on his shoulders so well. He was wild and crazy as Pi, but also scared and heartbroken, yet hopeful. A very hard mix, but I found Sharma played it all very well.

And the graphics, of course, were incredible. The cinematography is just gorgeous, and this is one of those movies you really have to see on the big screen to really appreciate what it looks like. And of course, this movie is almost this year's Hugo in a way. An acclaimed director making their first dip into a family movie, and into 3D, both which are acclaimed movies, and the 3D is highly praised. While I wasn't a fan of the 3D in Hugo (I felt it was overdone and made everything look like an animated film almost), the 3D in this film really added to the movie, but didn't overly stand out. And of course, this will be the year's frontrunner for visual effects. My only complaint was that the animals acted a little too human, but, reaching the end of the movie and hearing it's conclusion, that may have been the point.

As for Oscar chances, I'd be upset if it wasn't up for Best Picture, though I don't expect it to win. It was a very well made film, and while I don't quite see Ang Lee sneaking in for Director, it wouldn't be a surprise if he did. It's a packed year for main actors, so I don't see Suraj Sharma making it in, but I can hope it'll make it in to adapted screenplay (up against Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln, and Les Mis). And of course, cinematography, art direction, visual effects, and I could see it sneaking in for Best Score. Overall, this is definitely the best family-oriented film of the year (it's the only movie this year that's getting awards attention and is only rated PG).

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with this film in a number of ways. It took chances, it did things differently, and it turned out incredibly well despite people claiming that this book is "unfilmable", which I had definitely agreed with at first until I saw the director Lee took with the film.


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