The Trouble with Quibbles: Life of Pi

The Oscar-winning director of such films as Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon returns with his adaptation of Yann Martel‘s Life of Pi. It’s the simple enough tale of a boy lost at sea with a Bengal tiger, and some other stuff happens too.

BRYAN: My first question for you, sir: 3D or 2D?

ADAM: I refuse to pay extra for 3D. I don’t like it.

BRYAN: Alright. Well, I did see it in 3D, and I’ll just say the film uses it very well. It’s not quite as necessary as it was in Hugo, but it was good. I think it helps the look of the film, because it isn’t meant to be realistic looking and the 3D sort of aids in the artificiality.

ADAM: Then I’m really glad I didn’t see it in 3D, cause I already hated how artificial everything looks in 2D.

BRYAN: Even though that is the look it was going for?

ADAM: Yes, even though that’s the look they were going for, I hated the way it looked.

BRYAN: Okay. See, I was about to say that the visual effects and the cinematography were the best things about the movie.

ADAM: I know you were.

BRYAN: You know nothing, Jon Snow.  I mean… you don’t agree?

ADAM: Mmmm… nope, can’t do it. I hated the way it looked. I hate how fake it all looked. Either make it look real or make a cartoon.

BRYAN: When I saw footage on my TV I didn’t care for the look, but on the big screen, in 3D, it played.

ADAM: The first time I saw the trailer was on a big screen, and it looked off-putting and fake then too.

BRYAN: Even the vfx? That tiger is crazy good work.

ADAM: They made a great cartoon tiger.

BRYAN: Oh, you… so clever. Moving past that question. Had you read the book before? And what did you think of the story?

ADAM: I haven’t read the book. And I probably won’t, since I wasn’t particularly engaged by the story.

BRYAN: I tend to enjoy a good survival tale. And I liked this one. It also has that extra layer of spirituality. What’s not to like?

ADAM: Pi.

BRYAN: Actor or character?

ADAM: They never got me to like Pi. Character.

BRYAN: He is kind of blank, but that didn’t bug me that much. The actor does a good enough job. He mostly has to act tired or scared. Only time I could have used a better talent was that monologue at the end. He gets it out, but someone else could have knocked it out of the park.

ADAM: But going back to what you just said, I enjoy a good survival tale too. I just don’t think it’s a good survival tale, for a couple reasons: you already know that Pi survives and… everything looks fake!

BRYAN: Ah, but I would counter that the look and him surviving don’t diminish the tale because they are part of the film’s conceit. This is a harrowing struggle for survival, with a Tiger no less, but it plays almost like a fantasy film, and it is that way for a reason.

ADAM: Yeah, which is another reason I hated it. The ending of this movie reminds me of the end of Savages… “but that’s just how I imagined it…” Bullshit.

BRYAN: First off, I haven’t seen Savages. So double spoilers dude. Come on!

ADAM: It’s not a spoiler. And don’t see Savages.

BRYAN: Second, I like how it pays off the religious stuff. I was wary of where it was going to take all the “make you believe” stuff, but this way works for me. It’s vague and you can take what you want from it. Did you like anything?

ADAM: I liked when it was over.

BRYAN: Come on, one thing.

ADAM: Nope. I didn’t like this movie.

BRYAN: Alright, well more things you hated that I can possibly defend?

ADAM: You can’t defend why I didn’t like this movie. It’s just not my cup of tea.

BRYAN: But why? What else was “bad”?

ADAM: Everything. To me, everything about this movie is bad.

BRYAN: Stop being general!

ADAM: You can’t argue my taste. It’s my taste. This movie is not my taste. I hate how fake it looks. I hate all the spiritual mumbo jumbo. I hate its core. And I didn’t need to see it. I wish I saw something else instead of seeing this just to be able to talk about it.

BRYAN: Alright then. Well. I thought it was rousing with gorgeous imagery. Some very memorable sequences. The interview/narration scenes were flat but the only way to get to the final moments, and Khan acts the hell out of them. It had the best special effects I’ve seen all year. Not everything worked, but the wonder is there. As for the mumbo jumbo, I think in the end it is trying to say that faith or believing doesn’t just make for more interesting stories but may also save your life. That can work for some or not, but it’s not a bad idea.

ADAM: If I were writing a solo review of Life of Pi, I would call it “Big Empty,” that’s how this film comes off to me. It’s a faith-based facade, a sham spectacle, a sermon masquerading as an adventure film. And no, sir, I don’t like it.

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8 responses to “The Trouble with Quibbles: Life of Pi

  1. You two are my favorite married couple.

  2. I’m going to see this movie this weekend. If it’s anything like the book, I’ll hate it too. The book was a well-written but philosophically superficial piece of pseudo-religious-apologist garbage.

  3. Essentially, the story is a defense of Pascal’s Wager. As such, religious folks should be as disgusted by it as secular folks are. But from what I hear, they lap it up.

  4. I interpreted it more as celebrating the art of storytelling. It has a coat of religion to it, but it is far more interested in this life, not the after life.

    I haven’t read the book, but I would guess if you didn’t like it, you should skip the movie.

  5. Thought this movie was OK, the visuals were overall OK but often fakey, the story was OK, the acting was OK. As Adam said it definitely ruined an element of the story for me knowing that he does for sure survive. I would have assumed it likely regardless but knowing it for a fact removes an element of danger from his circumstances in a big way. There are some movies where this is unavoidable (Apollo 13 comes to mind) but in this one it was a letdown for me. I saw it in 2D and I was not blown away, I also did not sit looking at the screen and longing to see those images in 3D (But I rarely do as the only 2 movies I have ever seen in 3D that I truly was appreciative of having the stupid glasses for was Avatar and Hugo.) That’s another issue I had, all of the marketing for this film that wanted to draw parallels to the Avatar experience, this movie had nothing even remotely close to Avatar other than the fact that it took place on a planet and 3D glasses were an option. Again, I didn’t hate this movie, but I didn’t particularly like it either, or more to the point it did not leave a strong lasting impression on me.

    • It’s not like I loved it, but I did really enjoy it. The Avatar spots are unfortunate, but I try not to watch a film with marketing in mind. As for knowing he survives, this depends on the movie, and what it’s trying to do. In Apollo 13 they’re simply going for suspense, and human ingenuity, they succeed because of the filmmaking and the event wasn’t quite so well known. In something like Lincoln, it’s not about suspense but sacrifice, and process, and Lincoln himself through this one event. With PI, the end makes it very clear that the film was never about whether he lives or not, it’s not about suspense. So it didn’t bother me. It’s a matter of intent and since that’s not what they were going for, I don’t think they failed.

  6. I get that they weren’t going for suspense, but what I am saying is that added suspense would have made this movie far more enjoyable for me than what it was. Clearly they weren’t going for suspense or they wouldn’t give away that he is alive. Lincoln, Apollo13.. those movies worked on levels that this one just didn’t for me. It seems to have at its core the struggle for survival and yet they DIDN’T go for suspense. Because so much of the rest of the film and its themes are very meh over all. And I didn’t watch it with the marketing in mind but I will admit that I was intrigued by the claim s that this would enter Avatar territory and therefore allowed my expectations to be raised a bit. Again, I didn’t hate it, but it did not leave a lasting impression.

  7. Pingback: 2013 Oscar Checklist – The Master List | Shooting the Script

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