Life of Pi is a movie slavishly, some might say entirely, devoted to its visuals. Entire segments of the movie are devoted to nothing but giving us beautiful sights and lavish spectacles. It contains what I think is one of the best (thus far) uses of 3D in a movie, and it uses it a way that is artistic and unique, rather than for show. It is a bit of a shame, therefore, that it drops the ball in small, but damaging, ways in the story department.
Adapted from a solid book that I, for once, have actually read, the story is devoted to a teenager, Pi (actual name Piscine, but he stopped wanting to be called that in school for obvious reasons). His parents own a zoo but are falling on hard times and are moving to Canada, planning to sell the animals in order to start a new life. On the way to Canada, the ship sinks, leaving Pi alone on a lifeboat with a fully grown Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
All of the things that are needed to make a good movie are in place. The cinematography is gorgeous, the visuals and their design unique and well put together, the CGI is some of the best of the year, the editing and score are flawless and the character of Pi and (weirdly enough) Richard Parker are well sketched and believable. So all we need is a good story to hang all these things on.
And this is where the movie drops the ball. The movie, while energetic and exciting, is paced really weirdly. The first act takes forever, which could normally be made up for in an energetic third act, but the movie also doesn’t seem to have a third act. I feel like I’m exaggerating just typing that, but it really doesn’t. The movie has a long first act, an even longer second act, gets to the end of the second act and then just sort of…cuts to the denouncement. I suppose it’s a function of the story that it be without a third act, but it’s still incredibly weird to have happen.
Aside from the wonky pacing, the movie is ludicrously unsubtle at times, to the point where I’m starting to wonder if a behind the scenes editor was worried American audiences wouldn’t get it. The movie spells out a few of it’s morals and ideas at the very end (as in literally states them) and at least one of the visuals is so on the nose that I actually rolled my eyes.
If it sounds like I’m down on the movie I’m not. It’s a legitimate experience, something that is actually breathtaking to watch when it’s in motion. But the things I like to talk about are the things that the movie fails at. But it’s still a good movie, beautiful and moving and highly unique. So while it’s not perfect, I’m going to call this one recommended. After all, where else are you going to get 2 hours of a tiger on a boat with an Indian Kid?
Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he wishes movies would stop demonizing hyenas; I fucking love hyenas.