20th Century Fox’s big screen adaptation of author Yann Martel’s book, Life of Pi is one of the best movies of 2012. And now that it has been officially released on DVD/Blu-ray/Digital combo pack, it is become one of the top home releases of 2013. The movie has been billed as “The Next Avatar” as a means of promoting the movie. But the reality is that it isn’t the next Avatar. Rather, it’s better than Avatar. Unlike that movie, Life of Pi has so much more than just special effects going for it. What’s more, it doesn’t have the “preachy-ness” of that movie. It’s a work that in its little more than two hours succeeds in keeping viewers engaged, and by the end of that time, will leave any viewer moved. Even though there are disparities between the movie and the original, book, this adaptation still succeeds in the end. And thanks to the bonus features of the home release, audiences who perhaps might have criticized it for the differences between the book and movie will have a different view thanks in large part to the movie’s bonus features. BY the time one watches through the movie and its bonus features, one will see exactly why this is one of the best home releases of 2013.
The big screen adaptation of Life of Pi is such a wonderful work. Despite being billed as “The Next Avatar”, it is far better than that movie. It succeeds in so many ways that Avatar fails. Life of Pi is obviously not the first epic tale ever made. But it is the first great epic of the 21st Century. A lot has changed from the book, obviously. But as audiences will learn through the movie’s home release that even the book’s author, Yann Martel openly accepted the big screen adaptation. He even notes early in the bonus features that it would be difficult to directly translate the book to the big screen. This is just one of so many factors that make this such an impressive story.
Also interesting to note from the movie is its dual faceted storyline. On one side, audiences get an allegory about having something in which one can believe. Audiences are presented with this from early on as Pi discusses with the writer about trying his hand at so many different faiths. That theme of faith continues throughout Pi’s journey. The second storyline that makes the movie a success is the classic man versus nature/man versus himself storyline. Pi being alone at sea, save for one other figure—in this case, a tiger. Being lost at sea, he has to face the tiger, himself, and the elements. For those who have read the book, one could make the argument that the tiger was really just a product of his own imagination, just as the other animals. That plays perfectly into another part of what made Life of Pi so enjoyable.
Late in the movie (not to give away too much plot information), the adult Pi tells his reporter friend about a second story that he told a pair of Japanese officials, since the ship on which Pi and his family were traveling was Japanese. In explaining to his reporter friend the second story that he told to the officials and why he told the second story, he asked the reporter which story he preferred. This is really a dual purpose question. On the surface, he was asking the reporter which story he preferred and what he believed. On another level, he was asking audiences—regardless of whether or not they had read the book before watching this movie—which story they preferred. That in itself makes the big screen adaptation that much more entertaining. The fact that writer David Magee could have Pi break down that fourth wall with such subtlety adds even more to the movie. Magee is asking not only which story do viewers believe from Pi, but which version do they “believe” more?; the book or the movie? That is the eternal question with movies after all. Regardless of which version viewers “believe” more, it is still a movie that any true lover of movies should see at least once.
As one can already tell, a lot of work went into the adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel. In terms of the storytelling, the story was adapted quite well, changes aside. The story was just part of what made this one of the greatest movies of 2012, and the first great epic of the 21st Century. Also to be taken into account with this movie is its spectacular special effects and cinematography. Not enough can be said of the work that went into both. Viewers will be amazed in watching the movie’s bonus features to learn that the tiger in the movie was a real tiger less than half the time. The bonus features reveal that the majority of the time, the tiger was in fact digitally created. But it looks so realistic that one can’t really tell the difference. And of course, who can forget the now famous whale scene or the flying fish? These and so much more make Life of Pi a visual masterpiece.
Staying on the movie’s visual aspects and its bonus features, there is perhaps one negative to the entire package. That one negative comes as director Ang Lee discusses how he and his staff presented the movie to 20th Century Fox’s studio heads not in storyboard form, but in digital storyboard form. So not only have animated movies gone the way of the dinosaur, but apparently the mere art of storyboarding has, too as studios are apparently opting even more for a digital product even in movies’ storyboarding. It’s a minor negative. But it’s still very telling about the direction that movies and visual entertainment in general have taken. It makes the statement without saying it, that the very art of making art is dying. And that is a sad statement. So while it isn’t necessarily a negative to Life of Pi, it makes for an interesting dissertation for those involved in the movie and television industry. Keeping this in mind, it takes little to anything away from the movie itself, and allows the movie to maintain the status of one of 2012’s greatest movies as well as one of 2013’s greatest home releases. It’s available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from 20th Century Fox’s online store at http://www.foxconnect.com/life-of-pi.html.