Laura Says: See It At the Theater!
This movie certainly did the book justice for me. A visual feast for the eyes, the film lives up to the imagery described in the novel. I did not see the movie when it came out in the theatres, but I can imagine how even more beautiful it must have been. It was as if someone took the color on my TV screen and turned it up to number 12.
One such beautiful scene is when suddenly at night, Pi is surrounded by glowing jellyfish which light up the night; meanwhile, a whale rises and soars out from underneath the water. It is one of the most visually impressive scenes I have ever seen and Ang Lee’s visual effects team is deserving of the Oscar.
Many scenes I was looking forward to being in the movie were actually in the film. One is the scene where Pi writes his name on the board at the start of each class to best make his name memorable to his classmates and teachers. Also true to the novel, we also see the alternate ending Pi gives to the detectives.
In terms of differences, while the movie is very close to the storyline novel, the book is much more in depth. The scenes with Pi's religious contemplation is much more involved as well as his survival on the boat. On the contrary, the scene when the boat is caught up in the storm and about to sink is actually more intense than that scene in the book itself.
Another difference to note is that the movie is not as graphic as some scenes in the book. With scenes of some of the animals attacking and killing each other on the boat, as well as the "interesting" food choices Pi is forced to make trying to survive, I expected a little more gore...although I cannot say I am disappointed to be spared seeing such moments, especially since I watched it with my four year old son! I suppose in order to appeal to children and maintain a PG-13 rating, these graphic elements could not be included.
My verdict is to see it at the movie theater! Definitely the movie theater. In fact, I am positive I would have enjoyed Lee’s Life of Pi even more had I experienced the visual effects on the big screen. This is definitely an enjoyable film, even to those who adore the book.
That being said, there were several differences between the book and the movie. One, that Laura mentions, is when Pi writes his name on the board, emphasizing that he wants to be called Pi, rather than his birth name, Piscine, because it sounds too much like “pissing.” While, in the book, Pi does write his name on the board, he does not have the mathematical equation memorized. He does not write it down on the board. There is never a teacher confirming that he has the number correct. Pi is not a genius.
In addition, in order to truly grasp the violence that Pi is exposed to in the boat, the audience should have experienced more of it with him. Instead, we were given a modified version in order to appease the masses, which, in my opinion, makes the movie benign and boring.
One of the most obscure scenes from the book is also left out of the movie: when Pi and Richard Parker are both blind (which doesn’t really happen in the movie either), Pi’s boat bumps into another man’s boat, a French cook, who ultimately tries to eat him. Most likely, this moment in the book is a brief window into Pi’s psyche and the reality that Pi is trying to deal with. This scene would have been difficult to portray in the film, so I can see why the director chose to leave it out.
A scene I was glad to see was left out was when Pi tries to eat Richard Parker’s feces while on the boat. It was bad enough reading it and then reading the alternate ending, realizing he likely was eating his own feces. This was probably best left out of the film.