With every Thanksgiving comes a film onslaught, and this year Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” joined the madness.
Based on Yann Martel’s novel, “Pi” follows the title character, a young boy who was thrown overboard when the ship his family takes to America hits rough waters. Much of the film follows Pi as he attempts to survive while sharing a lifeboat with a tiger, which was also thrown overboard. The film is filled with stunning visuals, but does it drag? We’ll discuss it in this week’s “Sellouts.”
Karsten Burgstahler: The visuals dominated the movie. I oftentimes found myself appreciating the beautiful camera tricks rather than the plot. The 3D really helped the visuals as well; Lee conceived the film for 3D, and he used James Cameron’s “Avatar” technology to produce it. The underwater shots are crisp, and one sequence with thousands of candles floating on water is incredible. The visuals definitely drove the film, but I think it was always going to be that way. The plot is incredibly simplistic.
Austin Flynn: While the plot was simplistic, I don’t feel like the visuals dominated the plot quite as much as people thought they would compared to “Avatar.” In fact, I enjoyed the story very much, even when what was happening was slightly boring. However, the film did drag when the visuals were at their best, which I thought was an amazing use of the CGI. It didn’t take the easy route like “Avatar” and constantly shove visuals down viewers’ throats. Although the story was simple, it worked for me because it was original, kept me involved and made me feel like I was given perspective after the movie was over. I haven’t read the book, but you can bet I want to after this.
KB: I have to disagree on the story’s originality. If one removes the film’s religious subtexts, it’s pretty much a visually stunning “Cast Away.” However, the subtexts really help the film. Pi’s religious journey as a kid is interesting, and it’s great that the film doesn’t get bogged down with too many ruminations during the first act, but it certainly takes a while to get to the main plot. I agree the visuals are at their strongest when the film drags. “Pi” is entertaining, but it often seems more like a travelogue than a movie.
AF: Yeah, I can see it being like “Cast Away,” except for the fact that there was more than a page of dialogue in the film and the kid traveled with a Bengal tiger instead of crying over a Wilson volleyball with a bloody hand print on it. WILSON! A couple of the film’s interesting aspects were its time span and how it portrayed the physical toll of Pi’s and the tiger’s adventure. Pi literally went from being a perfectly healthy kid to a skinny and malnourished bag of bones, and it looked believable. This kept me emotionally invested in the character, and it made the ending much more hard-hitting.
KB: The physical toll was done well, but once again that is a visual plus. Lee is a very visual filmmaker. If you remember, he’s the director responsible for the 2003 “Hulk” monstrosity, so he’s made leaps in his abilities to create stunning visuals. I applaud his use of a relatively unknown cast, which makes the film feel more personal. A major star would have just been distracting, and Lee is able to let his camera work tell the story. I just wish the story was a bit more interesting and less cryptic. Pi’s narration is engaging, but sometimes the audience members are left to scratch their heads. Viewers will certainly have plenty to discuss after they leave the theater.
AF: So the film didn’t jump right out and tell the audience what they were supposed take from it. Personally, I’m OK with that, especially after watching films that constantly tell us how to think and feel. Sure, this movie did end in somewhat of a mystery, but it was easy to follow and deserves to be discussed after leaving the theater. The extra discussion only means the plot was worth debate even after the entry fee was spent and the credits rolled. The fact of the matter is that I was thoroughly entertained when I was in the movie theater, and it was still fresh in my head to examine the plot when I left. If I wanted a movie where I could turn off my brain and take away nothing more than a headache, I would have seen “Here Comes the Boom.”
Life of Pi – 2hr 6min – Rated PG – Drama