I Like Pi’s Visuals

Next up on my Thanksgiving weekend reviews is the newest novel based movie called Life of Pi.  This past summer I was captivated by the wonderful trailer that was visually stunning and had a killer soundtrack that matched the flow of the trailer.  When I found out Ang Lee was directing it I got even more excited that this film was going to be an artistic wonder.  Since I hadn’t read the book though, I had no idea what else I was in store for other than a modern version of the Cast Away movie.  So what did this movie have to offer?  Read on to find out.

For those who haven’t seen the trailer or read the book, Life of Pi is the tale of a man named Piscine Patel, known by most as Pi, an Indian boy who likes to question many rules and discover new lessons.  On the voyage to a new home in Canada, the boat Pi and his family are riding capsizes leaving him stranded with a few animals and some rations on a small lifeboat.  The teenage boy will discover a world he never imagined, while struggling to maintain his life in the lonely world of the ocean.

That’s pretty much the plot, so you might wonder what makes this movie different from Cast Away, other than the main character is Indian and there is a tiger.  I’ll start with talking about the visuals of this move, which for me and a couple of my buddies was the best element of the movie.  From the get go, the cinematography is amazing capturing the natural beauty of the Indian continent.  As the opening credits start, the audience is treated to some well angled shots of the various zoo creatures, each doing their own thing as if nothing is happening.   Once the movie officially starts though, the camera work continues to get better, with every angle being selected to get the most out of the scene.  Even the chaotic scenes aboard the sinking ship were well captured, skipping the chaotic camera angles for the use of CGI and visuals to create the feelings of uncontrolled fear.  When calm eventually returns the desolate world of the vast ocean is impressively recreated on the screen.  Many of its inhabitants are well polished and designed to have you thinking they are real, that is until you get a closer look.  Upon focusing on the actual creatures, you can see where the realism starts to blur a bit, as the animals become a little too polished and clean.  Despite this though, the animation for the animals is still impressive, capturing their movements to the finite detail and adapting them to the interaction with Pi and the tiger.  Thus the artistic aspects of this movie are definitely prevailing in this movie.

A second big quality of this movie is the spirituality built into this feature film.  Before even pushing out on the boat, Pi begins experimenting with multiple religions, each being explained in their connection to the deities.  Those interested in religion will get a nice refresher course in theology; though will appreciate more of the practice in this movie.  Scenes where Pi prays or talks to God are sure to strike up some feelings in fans, whether good or bad really depends on the person.  For this reviewer, it did make me thankful for many things, and helping strengthen my spiritual connection.  There are even a few other scenes that seem like a trippy experience into the spiritual realm that is visually beautiful, but still a little weird. If this isn’t what you want to see in a movie well, then you might choose to skip this film.  If this isn’t what you want to see in a movie well, then you might choose to skip this film.

What else is there to mention about this movie?  Well I can warn you now that there are some graphic scenes of life that may disturb some people.  I admit that some of the animal hostility in this film made me very sad, and could make little kids cry their eyes out.  Despite this sadness though, I have to admit it is very realistic as when fighting for survival animals can turn into savage monsters.  Those looking for a story with lots of twists and turns are also advised to skip this movie as well, since it is little more than an Indian boy fighting for survival and documenting his adventure.  However, those who like movies that dive into the mind and character are going to be up for this film.  Another thing about this film is the pace of the movie keeps things a little slow.  Again this is a life adventure, but did we really need over two hours of film to see this?  For this reviewer not really, as half an hour less could have helped with the long dragging feeling of this film.  The acting by Suraj Sharma was very passionate at many points in the movie and well representative of the emotions.  Unfortunately some of the scenes forced him to be a little too passionate in his yelling, leading to a little overdramatic tension.

To wrap this review up, Ang Lee and company have created a visually stunning masterpiece that makes you think about your spiritual beliefs.  With award winning animation, polished creature design, beautiful settings and cinematography, and some well done editing, it’s no doubt this movie will be a candidate for best visual effects.  What could have made it even better though was adding a soundtrack like the trailer to further bring out the magic, instead of just using it for the sad scenes.  Regardless this movie is best seen in the theater with the visuals, yet if you go for plot wait until it releases on Netflix.  My scores for this movie are the following:

Adventure/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

please email rkarim11@su.edu for constructive criticism

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