With The Hobbit also being in cinemas at the minute, people have a choice of two fantastical stories to go and see. Both are adapted from books, both have top directors adapting them; with a cast full of future potential, and both display fantastic visuals. The one we chose to see out of the two then was Life Of Pi which we decided on having never been big fans of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Life Of Pi is the apparent 'unfilmable' book from Yann Martel about a young boy's adventure when he is cast adrift at sea with only a Bengal Tiger for company. If this is classed as unfilmable then I believe director Ang Lee deserves huge credit because he has given this film some breathtaking visuals that show that if you employ the correct people then anything is filmable.
The film begins in present day with an adult Pi, played by Irrfan Khan, sitting down to dinner with writer Rafe Spall. Rafe's writer, who remains unnamed in the film, is looking for his next big story and he has been put onto Pi who potentially has the greatest story ever told. One so amazing that it will make people believe in God. The pair begin to talk about the story which is an experience that happened to Pi when he was younger. He begins by explaining the origins of his name (after being unfortunately being named Piscine he abbreviated it to Pi and convinced those by memorising the numerical equivalent) and continues on to connections he made growing up with his family, a potential love interest, and a new addition to his Father's zoo. With life starting to shape to the way Pi intended to live it, his Father announces that they are to move to Canada and sell their animals whilst there. Pi is unhappy at this but must move with his family and it is on their voyage across the Pacific that his great journey begins. The boat is sunk during a terrible storm and only Pi is lucky enough to survive, despite his attempts to fight for his family. When the storm settles the ship is gone and Pi finds himself in the middle of the ocean in a lifeboat occupying a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and the Bengal Tiger he attempted to befriend at the zoo. As the days turn into months the animals become hungry and eventually just the tiger, named Richard Parker, and Pi remain. Pi begins to understand that Richard Parker's presence is keeping him alive so he does all he can to keep the tiger living on whilst learning to understand the unpredictability of the sea and remain uneaten by the hungry carnivore.
The story is certainly inspiring and told very well. The shot choices, cinematography, and effects are absolutely beautiful and they really add in putting a smile on your face as you watch. Shots when the lone boat floats on a still, placid sea that reflects the stars in the sky just look astounding, and really add to the tone of the film. The connection between man and animal is a slow burn but when it gets there it is full of heart and you really believe in their relationship. As Pi tames Richard Parker the emotion between the two alters and a hungry beast soon turns into an ally that is keeping each other alive. Richard Parker is played by a mixture of real life tiger and CGI effects. The tiger is used for the scenes of Richard swimming through the ocean but a CGI rendered alternative is used for the up-close scenes with Pi. Either way Richard Parker looks breathtaking. The graphics for him look highly realistic and you could, at times, mistake him for a real tiger. You can tell a lot of effort went into him alone. Alternatively there are a few scenes which switch to different animals or mammals that look highly computer generated and they don't look anywhere near as good. This is a shame when others look so realistic. As well as the animals, and effects, the actors also play there parts very well. Newcomer Suraj Sharma is impressive as Pi who must have spent a lot of time acting alone. Along with him Khan, as the older Pi, brings plenty of wisdom as he tells his story. The positives in this film evolve around the story, which by the end brought a huge smile to my face and I left the cinema feeling very pleased indeed.
Although the visuals and acting make for a fantastic story some of the slow paced build up can make your mind wander as opposed to keeping you entertained. The film is fairly long at just over two hours considering it spends the majority of it with a child and tiger alone at sea and at times I was willing the story to move forward quicker as there is only so much of a boy taming a tiger I can take. Also in the build up to the sinking ship I got a little bored with Pi's back story. It was all very nice but some of it failed to seem necessary and didn't help me strike a connection with him, meaning that when the ship sunk I didn't really feel for him. Other moments that let the film down involved odd scenes that had very little place such as Pi 'painting' the ocean and a whale leaping from the depths. The scene looked very nice but didn't really add to anything.
By the end I understood I had been on a nice journey. It was a story that you would always want to tell but the issue is that this was all it was. At no point did I feel much suspense or worry that Pi was going to suffer at the paws of the tiger, meaning it is easy to become underwhelmed by the entire experience. When we left I had a nice smile and felt I had been to see a gentle movie with lovely visuals with an ending that had me nodding in inspired appreciation however my partner left unflustered by it all and failing to believe there was any point to it all, and she loves stories involving animals. To her it never really gripped and at times became repetitive. Despite me thinking it was a very good film I still understood where she was coming from and there are many scenes that could have been cut. It is a nice film to see but only if you make the effort to see it on the big screen as it is the visuals that make all the difference. Ang Lee has definitely brought to life the visuals the book painted in his imagination as they are very dreamlike and surreal. Definitely see this film once as it is a good watch but don't expect anything tense or overly dramatic, simply expect to be taken on an incredible journey with some astounding visuals that you can only gawp at in appreciation.
Pros: The visuals and acting are strong and aid the telling of a gentle story
Cons: Can be repetitive resulting in some underwhelming scenes.
6.5 / 10
Top 10 of 2012 so far:
1. The Dark Knight Rises 10 / 10
2. Argo 9 / 10
3. Skyfall 8.5 / 10
4. Silver Linings Playbook 8 / 10
5. The Hunger Games 8 / 10
6. Snow White And The Huntsman 8 / 10
7. Avengers Assemble 7.5 / 10
8. Looper 7.5 / 10
9. Ted 7.5 / 10
10. 21 Jump Street 7.5 / 10