“Life of Pi” is captivating yet bland

Adapted from Yann Martel’s critically acclaimed novel, the outstanding cinematography offsets the slow-moving plot in Ang Lee’s newest film.


photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The stunning visual elements in Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” make up for the slow moving plot.

Will Jarvis, Staff Writer

Academy Award winning director Ang Lee released his 2012 film, “Life of Pi” over the Thanksgiving weekend, dazzling audiences with incredible scenery and visual elements, but lacking in action, as the story was somewhat bland.

Based on the 2001 adventure novel by Yann Martel, the film follows the story of a young man named Pi, traveling with his family and their zoo from India to Canada. When a rough storm hits their ship in the Pacific Ocean, the family drowns, and Pi finds himself alone on a lifeboat with the bengal tiger he had been scared of his whole life. The tale that follows tells the story of their journey together, and the relationship of fear and friendship between the two.

Fox 2000 Pictures

The main flaw of the film is that it can be quite slow at times, and because most of the story takes place in the middle of the ocean, it frequently lacks action. However, the spiritual and emotional turmoil is shown well in Pi’s character throughout the film by the way he acts, and his individual monologues. One of the key themes in the film is spirituality, and faith in a God, or many Gods––Pi practices not only Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam––is evidently shown throughout the story. The tale is one of faith, hope, and survival, and while it can at times be slow, the overall message is powerful.

Visually, the film is stunning, as the color schemes and special effects alone make it worth seeing. The special effects are incredible, especially considering one of the main characters, the tiger named Richard Parker, was 100% CGI––without knowing the tiger was made from special effects and done on a computer, it appears extremely realistic. The incredible scenes at sea were also beautifully done, and the colors illustrated in the storms and infinite sea are impressive.

The main character, Pi, is played by rookie actor Suraj Sharma. Sharma’s performance was fantastic considering it was his first major role, but compared to experienced actors, it was a bit sub-par. It wasn’t that he lacked anything, the performance was just much like that of the story: somewhat boring. The most emotional scenes in the film were captivating, but probably not as much as they should have been. Sharma gave a solid performance for an inexperienced actor, showing he likely has the chops for bigger roles in his future.

Overall, while “Pi” lacked the edge-of-your-seat excitement, its visuals, and special effects make up for the monotonous storyline. The themes were powerful, however, and the beautiful cinematography picked up much of the slack due to Sharma’s performance, and the tale itself.