Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: Life of Pi (2012)

pi (π), an irrational number equal to 3.14159. It is the ratio between a circle's circumference and its diameter. Pi is also the nickname of a boy who got lost at sea, sharing a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.

Ang Lee and his team had done a great job of putting such an imaginative story onto the silver screen. To me, the biggest magic of all was the amazing use of CGI. The team's genius was in full display when it unleashed a realistic, convincingly ferocious tiger onto the lifeboat. I thought, at first, that the trainer did a good job at preventing the big cat from eating the actor portraying Pi Patel. Then a friend told me: the cat was pure computer-generated imagery. But that's not all. The sea creatures that made Pi and Richard Parker (yes, that's the tiger's name) realize that they are not at the top of the marine food chain were also all CGI.

What amazed me even more was the portrayal of Pi by Suraj Sharma. The animals were only realistic because the sole human in the scene with them acted like the creatures were really there... particularly Richard Parker. The audience felt Sharma's loneliness, his struggle to grow up and to survive, and his loss as he (and the audience) went back to reality.

Ah, reality...

Once the gloss of the water, the bioluminescence of jellyfish and of algae, and the magical land animals on the lifeboat were removed, the brutality of human survival at sea was plain to see (or for Pi's audience -- including the author, the insurance people, and the real-life theater audience -- to hear). It was truly a story that was difficult to listen to; none of the magic, none of the wonder conjured by the idea of keeping a tiger from eating you while you're both floating aimlessly in the middle of the Pacific.

Frankly, I'd rather not hear the real story.