A writer looking for a good story is directed to a man who survived a shipwreck. The man is mild mannered, calm, almost spiritual as he goes about the business of telling the story of his life. We learn about how he came to be called Pi, how his father ran a zoo, how he fell in love, and how he came to be on that ship in the middle of the Pacific. Then we are told a story, about a young man spending two hundred days on a lifeboat with the tiger Richard Parker.
Ang Lee did an amazing job of bring this strange and wondrous book to life. I watched it in 3D, as I have a weakness for 3D, even though it seldom lives up to my expectations. The visuals were good and some of the 3D effects were interesting. I went to the first showing and walked into an empty theater just as the coming attractions were starting. A few others joined the Wife and me, but not many. Like Cloud Atlas, Life of Pi is not exactly a mainstream film.
It’s been a while since I read Life of Pi, but as far as I recall the film is pretty much true to the book. Countless small details were left out, as a book can ramble on about how to use solar water collectors and the like, where the film just showed Pi drinking water from one. The film version of Life of Pi is filled with stunningly beautiful images that gave the illusion that being stranded in the middle of the ocean wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that a tiger was along for the ride.
Richard Parker was a CGI creation and a very good one. All the CGI in Life of Pi was good, but there were times when it leaned a little too much toward the cartoonish for my taste. Of course, Yann Martel’s story itself leans a little to the cartoonish side from time to time as well.
The Life of Pi is an amazing story that turns out to have a less magical ending. Like being told that Dorothy was dreaming and none of that nonsense about Oz really happened, we learn that Pi’s time as sea may not have been what we were lead to believe.
Belief is another big part of the Life of Pi. Pi was raised a Hindu, then found Christ, and then found Allah-and kept faith with all of them. Like the White Queen, Pi is perfectly comfortable believing as many impossible things as possible before breakfast. And so we are left to ponder ourselves, what is real and what is fantasy? Pi gives us the choice, and who would choose the cold hard facts over the adventure of a lifetime?