Is it just me, or did Life of Pi fly through theaters? It's really a shame, as I fear that this film will become an example of an "unfilmable" story that failed. I made a point to see Life of Pi in theaters, and I wish that more people had done the same. Its their loss, as those of us who made it in were treated to a thought-provoking and visually stunning film.
Warning: This is a post-viewing discussion of Life of Pi. If you haven't seen it yet, turn back now.
I didn't know what to expect from this film. I had not read the book and was not familiar with the story. What little marketing I had seen left me thinking that this was going to be some sort of fantastical adventure with wild animals. It seemed lighter than what we saw. I knew better than to expect a live-action version of Madagascar but I don't think general audiences were prepared for a film that a closer relative to Castaway than The Jungle Book.
I made it a point to see the 3D version of the film. While I am personally lukewarm on the format, I want to see films that were made with 3D in mind. I had read that this was shot in 3D, and also caught the flying fish scene when it was included with the 3D version of Prometheus.The 3D added to certain scenes, but I'm not sure if it was vital to the experience. This is partially a compliment, because if the 3D was vital than we would be left with mostly style, and this film has too much substance for a judgement like that. I'd also say that the overall imagery and CG were strong enough on their own merit. Not once, did I not believe that a real tiger was in that boat.
In fact, it sounds like Ang Lee made the decision to remove the part fo the film that would have been the most distracting. Word on the street is that Tobey Maguire originally played the part of the writer, but was recast. Apparently, the director thought that Tobey would be too distracting. I absolutely agree. While we may have seen a face or two from Life of Pi in other films, none are household names. A bold but wise choice Mr. Lee.
Undoubtedly, most post-film discussion revolves around the two tales of Pi. This movie begs to be viewed again once you understand who/what each animal represents. Pi's second version of the story is a lot to take in rather quickly, and seeing the film with the knowledge of the end will undoubtedly bring a different experience. I can add this to the list of movies I want to see again when my memory starts failing me someday, as I wish I could see it again for the first time. For now, I expect that I'll end up introducing a few other people to this film.
The big idea of the film below the surface is Pi's view of religion. In his conversation with the writer, Pi summaries both stories. Pi notes that in both stories the ship sinks, his family dies, and he is the only survivor. We, like the writer, prefer the version with the tiger. Pi appreciates that and states that it is the same with God.
My initial interpretation is that we use God and religion to make sense of our lives. Just as Pi believed that taking care of the Richard Parker gave his life purpose as he drifted in the ocean, so too does his faith help bring purpose to his life. Pi doesn't seem to get caught up in the dogma and fine print of his religions, instead they inform his overall faith. In his view, its not important what details are correct, rather its the interpretation of the journey.
But does that mean that Pi is turning a blind eye to the evil in the world, and in himself? Does Pi's first version of the story ignore the evil and recast Pi as a better person than he is. Perhaps we are not to judge, that seems like something only God should do.