Life of Pi (2012)

Alternate title: My Life as a CG Bengal Tiger.

I understand why movie makers are reluctant to use actual animals in the making of movies these days, and the art of computer generated graphics has come pretty far. Jurassic Park, for example, was an excellent example of the power of CG to bring creatures to life that could not otherwise ever exist. Since then, CG has been used well in some cases and poorly in others. When a major character or element is going to be CG, you're really putting a lot of responsibility in the hands of your graphic artists. 

Actors on set have to try to interact with a creature or person who isn't there. It is hard for them to do, and it relies on the director having a VERY good sense of where the animated creature will be and what they will be doing. The actors have to try to modify their behavior and imagine something that isn't there reacting to them. I'm reminded of when I saw the movie Sphere and listened to the secondary audio. Samuel L Jackson explained that he thought the sphere was going to be smooth and silver, but they made it shimmery and brass colored. He said that you may be able to tell, but he was acting with a silver sphere in mind, so him acting for a different color might have been different. 

In this movie, we have a small zoo full of animals, and we CG them all. The fact is that we wind up, as the movie poster shows, with a tiger and a kid on a boat, and the tiger is.... CG! Sometimes it is well done, and other times there are physics issues, shadow issues, motion issues, etc. The problem is that it distracts from the rest of the story. It's like a row of lights and there is one burned out - it's hard not to look at the one that's not working. 

Brushing aside the distraction of CG, we encounter the movie itself. It won a bunch of awards, and that's the reason I was convinced to watch it. The story is about a boy who meets a girl, loses the girl, starts to sail to America, gets in a shipwreck, and then comes to love and fear the tiger. The kid makes a lot of bad choices, and he reacts in ways that are inconsistent with someone who actually wants to survive the encounter, but he's a kid, right?

The whole movie is an introspection into the faith of the boy (now a man) and his journey to understand what he thinks of as God. He admits to practicing several religions including Hindu, Christianity, and Islam: all at the same time. This was an effort to get closer to the intangible gods that he is sure exist. The whole ordeal is a way for him to appreciate what he had and what he has. 

The whole movie comes of as artistic introspection. Fortunately for them, awards shows love that kind of thing and will give you accolades out the wazoo. If you can throw in a liberal cause, it'll be even better. Academy Awards used to be handed out to the best movie. Now they are handed out to the movie with the best message. It sucks. 

This movie is boring. The constant narration does little to break up the struggle between the kid and the tiger. The struggle is more of an attempt to feed the tiger and give it water while not being killed by it. It's not compelling movie watching. I honestly can't remember seeing an Ang Lee movie that I liked unreservedly; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the best he has made. And that horror that was the Eric Bana Hulk movie was another unrepentant reliance on CG.

The story was Cast Away with a CG tiger on a boat with intrusive voiceover.
The dialogue was horrendous. 
The acting was not good.
The cinematography was very good.
Directing was bad.
Editing was passable.



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