20 December 2012
LIFE OF PI- Review
Life of Pi centres around a man called Piscine Molitor Patel, (Pi, for short) who is seen telling the extraordinary story of his life to a writer who is struggling for inspiration. Once, Pi's family had a zoo, and decided to relocate from India to the United States. After a terrible shipwreck, the only survivors left were Pi and a handful of the zoo's animals. Before long, it comes down to just the boy and a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker, all alone on a raft in the middle of the Pacific ocean. The story of his survival, Pi promises, will make the writer believe in God.
20th Century Fox have been billing this one as "the next Avatar", referring to the visuals more than anything in the decidedly more complex and unconventional story. The special effects, by SFX house Rhythm and Hues, are superb, and are best exhibited by the creation of Richard Parker. Apparently, only six of the shots of him used an actual tiger, with the rest of the film being CGI-generated. Think of the effects in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, where you wouldn't necessarily look at a still image of Richard Parker and completely believe it was real, but the body language is utterly authentic when the character is in motion.
Likewise, the film raises the bar for 3D once again, by taking the phoney edge off of reflective surfaces, a problem that has taken me out of stereoscopic films in the past. More than the necessity of ironing out this wrinkle in a film that largely takes place at sea, it looks amazing. My quibble with the 3D would be that I consider any shift in the aspect ratio to be cheating- the first instance of this, in which a smaller ratio allows an onslaught of flying fish to bounce out of the image, is the most effective. Still, at least Lee opts to use the technology to do things that you couldn't do in 2D, which is more than many filmmakers have bothered to do.
Lee's also getting plenty of admiration for using top-of-the-range special effects to tell a story about spirituality, instead of using them to create another slap-bang action blockbuster, but in truth, Martel's novels is another one of those slam dunk bestsellers, which will entice readers to see any movie carrying the same name. Without having read the book, I've been told that the film's framing device, in which the older Pi, chats to Rafe Spall's writer, comes right from the page. It's no less problematic to me, because I think that both actors' performances are sub-par, and that the script is at its weakest in these scenes.
The majority of the film is rock solid, enthralling stuff, from the point of the devastating shipwreck scene, to the ultimate conclusion of young Pi's ordeal. It's a masterclass in visual storytelling, pulling in existential and spiritual themes in a way that really would have blown me away, if we didn't keep crossing back to those two narrators. The thing that most irritates me about this aspect of the film is that you don't have to do this much explanation in a visual medium, especially when the sumptuous imagery does a lot of the talking. I know people will disagree with me here, but I think that the film bypasses a perfect opportunity to end, ten minutes before the credits actually roll, and goes on to express its conceit more clumsily.
Life of Pi is now showing, in 2D and 3D, in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Life of Pi, why not share your comments below?
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.