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Life of Pi 3D(2012)
Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, Life of Pi is a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zoo keeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.
For more about Life of Pi 3D and the Life of Pi 3D Blu-ray release, see Life of Pi 3D Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on March 8, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Ang Lee
Writer: David Magee
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma, Gérard Depardieu, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Andrea Di Stefano
» See full cast & crew
Life of Pi 3D Blu-ray Review
The Rime of the South-Asian Mariner
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, March 8, 2013
Life of Pi wants to make you a believer. In what, though—faith or reason, hope or hard truths—is up for interpretation. Reflecting back on the events that made him who he is, the film's middle-aged narrator (Irrfan Khan) does give a kind of feel-good proof for the existence of the divine, but he also offers us some cold, painful, materialistic facts, and asks us to chose between the two. Life of Pi, then, is essentially about how we opt to see the world, and the story is itself a sort of litmus test. The 2001 novel by Jann Martel on which it's based has been variously interpreted as a spirituality-affirming fable, a slyly atheistic screed, and a loosey-goosey declaration that it's fine to believe whatever you like so long as it gives you comfort. Thematically, the movie is just as inscrutable and potentially divisive, and it's likely to inspire much satisfying post-viewing discussion.
While it may not significantly shift your worldview—it's more likely to reinforce what you already hold true—Life of Pi will make you a believer in the power of CGI and 3D in the hands of a real cinematic visionary. Director Ang Lee proves here that mind-melting visual effects don't have to be relegated to blockbuster action movies, and can be incorporated into a more nuanced and artful story. For years, the novel was proclaimed "unfilmable," but at last month's Academy Awards, the film adaptation netted Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography, along with Best Director and Best Original Score. See it for the spectacle, and stay for the philosophical debate.
The film is set up as a Rime of the Ancient Mariner-style frame tale, with the narrator relaying the harrowing adventure of his youth to a curious and skeptical writer (Rafe Spall) who was promised "a story that will make me believe in God." It all starts in India's Pondicherry district, where young Piscine Molitor Patel—named after a particularly beautiful Parisian swimming pool—grows up at his father's zoo, surrounded by animals. Since "Piscine" sounds a lot like "pissing," he goes by Pi, and the mathematical term—an irrational, transcendental number that never settles into a repeating pattern—suits the boy's personality. Pi becomes obsessed with finding God in all of the world's major religions, trying on Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam, and taking elements from these and more to form his own spiritual-but-not-quite-religious philosophy. His father (Adil Hussein), however, is a strict rationalist who says that "all religion is darkness" and urges his son to pursue reason before faith. Already, we're seeing the film's themes come into sharp relief.
When Pi is sixteen—and now played by off-the-street casting find Suraj Sharma—his father decides to sell the zoo and move the family to Winnipeg in search of a better life. They board a Japanese cargo ship bound for Canada, with the animals caged up in the hold, but a storm four days off the coast of Manila sinks the vessel and leaves Pi—the sole human survivor—stranded aboard a 30-man lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra, and a ferocious Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Survival of the fittest means the first three animals don't last very long, and Pi is forced to drift on a makeshift raft tethered at a distance to the lifeboat, which Richard Parker has claimed as his own. And yet, even through it threatens his own life, Pi comes to care for the tiger, catching fish for it and fetching it rain water. He sees in Richard Parker's eyes something beyond mere animal instinct. But is he only seeing a reflection of his own humanity?
This is just one of the many ontological questions the film poses as Pi is put at odds with nature, his conception of God, and himself. At its most basic, Life of Pi is a survival story in the Jack London mold. We get a sense for the tedium of the open sea, the danger of an unexpected gale, the hope of an island with fruit and fresh water and meerkats for Richard Parker to munch. On top of this, there's the unexpected affinity between man and beast, and the film does a phenomenal job at making Richard Parker—who gets seasick and grows thin—into a grounded, sympathetic character, utilizing both actual tigers and the CGI wizardry of now-bankrupt effects studio Rhythm and Hues. (Good luck trying to tell the real and the entirely digital apart.) On a higher level, though, Life of Pi operates as an allegorical, Job-like struggle that can be construed in a number of different ways, depending on the biases of the viewer. There's certainly a question of whether or not the narrator is reliable—he eventually gives us two versions of the events—but the film even questions the very importance of a reliable narrator, making the claim that a "good story" is perhaps better than the dreary facts. Is it better to be inspired and soothed with embellishments than to face a hard-to-accept truth? Is this the way religion operates? Does it ultimately matter? With questions like these, it's no wonder Life of Pi was a book club favorite, and the film may serve a similar function.
Not that you have to look that deeply into it. Even at its most superficial—as an eye-candy adventure movie—Life of Pi is frequently awe-inspiring. Phosphorescent plankton light up the ocean. Pi's delirium leads to a trippy underwater hallucination. There are encounters with dolphins and flying fish and a floating oasis that may be some sort of large-scale venus fly-trap. Fans of the novel probably couldn't've asked for a better adaptation, filmmaking-wise, from Ang Lee's poetic direction to the stunning visual effects and the fierce performance from newcomer Saraj Sharma, a non-actor who was found in an India-wide casting call. But like the novel, the film is most interesting as a Rorschach test for personal convictions. For some, it'll be an inspirational testament to sheer belief. For others, a wishy-washy, new age-y ode to the power of positive thinking. Still more might see a subversive plug for reason over blind-faith. Life of Pi welcomes all, so watch it with friends and suss it out over coffee or a drink or two.
Life of Pi 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Whatever else it is, Life of Pi is one of the year's biggest spectacle films, and it has a Grade-A Blu-ray release to match, with a 1080p/AVC- encoded presentation that's often nearly as dimensional in 2D as it is in 3D. Shot digitally with Arri Alexa cameras, the film has a very clean look. As expected, you may notice light noise in some of the darker scenes, but otherwise, the image is entirely free from source or compression issues—no artifacts, no banding, no aliasing, no distractions whatsoever. While some the effects-heavy shots seem a little soft—probably to help with blending— most all of the live-action cinematography is tack sharp. See Pi's chapped lips after months on the life raft. Or the individual beads of sand on his face when he washes up on shore. Or the fine texture of the writer's t-shirt. Of course, this is often an insanely colorful film as well, and the Blu-ray handles those intense hues easily, without ever looking oversaturated or unbalanced. On the contrary, there are a few scenes that could probably withstand a bit more contrast, but this is a purely aesthetic decision. Regardless, the picture on the whole has a great sense of pop and clarity. Did Claudio Miranda's cinematography deserve to beat out Roger Deakins' work on Skyfall for the Academy Award? That's another argument entirely, but Life of Pi is certainly one of the year's best-looking Blu-ray releases thus far.
If you're one of those "all 3D is gimmicky" naysayers—and I certainly was for a while—I challenge you to decry the artistry with which Ang Lee and his team have applied the extra dimensionality to Life of Pi. This is one of those rare films where the 3D really does add to the experience in an impactful and engaging way, and if you own a 3D-capable television, this is certainly one of the best discs available for demoing the tech. For starters, clarity and color are practically indistinguishable from the 2D version, so you're not sacrificing much of anything there. Better yet, the application of depth and presence is never in and of itself distracting; it's very subtle and natural in the way it envelopes you. The rippling waves, the candles on the river during the Vishnu ceremony, Pi floating underwater watching the ship sink into the depths, the flying fish madly flapping in the air around the lifeboat—there are so many showpiece moments, but none of them scream out obtrusively, "Hey, look! I'm in 3D!" As in Prometheus, some of the best uses are the simplest, like seeing the characters just move through the frame in the middle distance, the foreground almost tangible and the background realistically dropping back. It just works.
Note: There are two spots in the film where the aspect ratio changes suddenly from the normal 1.85:1. During the "flying fish" sequence that was used as a teaser for the movie, the top and bottom close in to 2.35:1, and there's a single overhead shot of a whale passing beneath the lifeboat that inexplicable squeezes in to a windowboxed 1.33:1. I'm not sure what the rationale or workflow was here, so I can't really comment on it, but don't be alarmed by the out-of-nowhere framing changes.
Life of Pi 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Life of Pi crashes and roars with a full-fledged lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track. I wouldn't call this an action movie, but there's certainly a lot of action in it, and it's all mixed with an energetic immersiveness, particularly once we get to the sinking of the cargo ship during the furious storm. Swells pound the deck and water sprays. Thunder ka-chunks and ripples outward. Rain pours down from all sides. We're put right in the middle of the tempest, and deep pulses from the subwoofer ensure we feel it in our bones. The showpiece audio sequence is probably the scene with the flying fish, which go darting and flapping through the soundfield, occasionally thwacking into Pi. The oceanic ambience remains even during the quieter parts, where we hear sea birds and wind and the lapping of the water. My favorite sound in the film, though, might be Richard Parker's claws scraping the sides of the lifeboat, desperately trying to catch hold. It's an incredibly precise noise. That level of careful audio design really is maintained throughout the movie, and the mix is always dynamic and clear, with dialogue that's easily understood. Surrounding the effects and voices is Mychael Danna's Academy Award-winning score, which effectively mixes Indian instrumentation with western orchestration.
Note: The included 2D disc includes a myriad of dub and subtitle options—see above for details—while the 3D disc is limited to Spanish, French, and German dubs, as well as English SDH, Spanish, and German subtitles. Both discs feature an English descriptive audio track.
Life of Pi 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Life of Pi 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
After scoring four Academy Awards last month, Life of Pi is sure to attract lots of attention on home video, and it deserves it. While it may not be the life-changing experience it wants to be, it is at least thought-provoking and sure to generate some post-viewing discussion, particularly if you watch it with others of differing worldviews. Besides that, it's simply gorgeous to behold and probably the best adaptation we could've asked for from a book previously considered "unfilmable." 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release does justice to the film's eye-candy visuals—particularly if you go for the 3D version—and the disc includes a wealth of special features, including a terrific hour-long making-of documentary. Highly recommended!
Life of Pi: Other Editions
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Life of Pi 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: March 12-19 - March 9, 2013
For the week of March 12th, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is bringing Life of Pi to Blu-ray. Director Ang Lee took on a formidable task when he elected to adapt Yann Martel's novel of the same name to the big screen. The book, while nominally a fantasy-adventure, ...
• Life of Pi Blu-ray - January 29, 2013
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has officially announced and detained its upcoming 2D and 3D Blu-ray releases of Ang Lee's Life of Pi (2012), starring Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain, and Gérard Depardieu. The releases will be available for purchase ...
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