Although Ang Lee’s Life of Pi adaptation has already been in theaters for well over a month, I am now just getting around to seeing it before it finishes up its initial theatrical run (being an Oscar contender, I’m sure it will have one of those ‘second life’ theatrical runs come Oscar time). Based on the book by Canadian author Yann Martel, it tells the story of Pi, a young Indian boy who is stranded on a lifeboat with a Tiger after his freighter is shipwrecked.
Having now seen the movie, I have to say that I greatly enjoyed it, especially as a theatrical experience. Is it better than the book? Well, while I liked the movie quite a bit, I think it would be unfair to say that it unseats the book. The novel is a very rich and thoughtful piece of prose on its own. But truthfully, I think this is one of the rare occasions where they almost achieve an equilibrium of quality, even if there are nitpicks to be filed against both.
The book, while slow at times and steeped in broad themes of theological and spiritual allegory, is a rich and emotionally satisfying read. The movie, which certainly doesn’t sanitize or ignore these themes, stands more as a visual wonder, worth seeing in theaters for the sheer spectacle (there are a handful of show stopping shots, including one particular shot of the shipwreck itself). The movie also brings some simplification to the more complex themes of the story, which itself can be good and bad, simultaneously making some of the concepts and parallels easier to follow and spot, but also watering them down to an extent in the process. These are minor qualms though and I urge people to check out both the book and movie. Author Yann Martel and director Ang Lee have done an excellent job creating fulfilling pieces of writing/film.
I wanted to also highlight a particularly nice piece written by Ben Kendrick of Screen Rant that tackles the end of the movie (and to an extent, the end of the book) rather effectively, a conclusion that has left many viewers pining for guidance on what exactly happened by the time the end credits roll. Kendrick provides a pretty thorough and digestible take on the events in Life of Pi, especially what you can take away from the ending and what nuances about it were left out of the film version. At the same time, he doesn’t try to force anything on you, which I still believe is much of the point of the book. It is a story that is meant to be interpreted on your own. Everyone will take different things away and imprint their own experiences, thoughts and struggles on it, and I believe that’s the beauty of a well written story. Either way, make sure to check out Kendrick’s thoughts at Screen Rant‘s site.