So I went to see this movie with a few friends this afternoon (you can find my review of the book below or in December 2012 in the archive to the right) and I was really quite impressed. Our first thoughts as the lights went up were that it was worth seeing in 3D and that the film was visually stunning.
The plot of the film stayed pretty close to that of the book: 16-year-old Pi's family decide to relocate to Canada from India and sell the animals from their zoo to make money for this move. However, on the journey the ship sinks, leaving Pi as the lone survivor on a lifeboat with only a 450-pound Bengal tiger (interestingly named Richard Parker) for company. Director Ang Lee understandably cut plot lines that clearly wouldn't have worked for film - for example, when both Pi and Richard Parker go blind.
Right from the beginning I was intrigued to know how they would portray the ending of the book, considering the film is a PG you could be pretty certain that they wouldn't show it as a flash back as the rest of the film had been. Instead the camera zoomed in on Suraj Sharma, playing the young Pi, and showed him against a white background as he tells his other story. This scene actually reminded me a lot of the scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 when Harry is attacked by Voldemort and wakes up to meet Dumbledore in a deserted, bright white imitation of King's Cross station. I quite liked that there was a similarity between these two scenes as it showed that Pi was in another world when telling this story and the white was clearly meant to show his closeness with God. This part of the book was tenderly dealt with, meaning the film is accessible to all ages; if this part of the film had been acted out I think it would have probably been too gory and violent for younger audiences.
I was a little concerned about the lead, Suraj Sharma, before viewing this film as many people had commented that his dialogue is a little difficult to understand. However, I didn't find this a problem and I actually thought he was very, very good in the title role - especially when the fact that he is on screen alone for the majority of the film is taken into account. How on earth he managed to react so well and with such reality to a tiger that wasn't there is beyond me.
The CGI in this film was absolutely sensational and made the whole thing so beautiful to look at; without this I think the film would have suffered and definitely wouldn't have had the same impact on viewers come the end of the movie. Although my friend thought the tiger was unrealistic, I was actually quite impressed at how life-like they made it look, especially when he was jumping or moving about the boat. This brings me on to another point about the tiger, and I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but the near constant lunging of the tiger towards the beginning of the film made many of us jump about 5 ft out of our seats. Personally, I think this added to the enjoyment of the movie as it enabled the viewer to feel just a tiny amount of what Pi was feeling at the time, which is quite a difficult thing to do with such an unusual plot.
However, there were a few things that I wasn't that happy with in the 'Life of Pi' movie. Although Pi's childhood and background is interesting and in some areas necessary, I think this part of the film went on a little bit too long - I would guess it took up at least a quarter of the two hours. I was also a little bit unsure about the addition of a relationship in Pi's life before his family's move as this wasn't in the book and I didn't think it was really necessary at first. However, as this short part of the film went on it grew on me and it did add to Pi's sense of loss at having to leave Pondicherry and his family's zoo. Also, although I do think it was worth paying extra for 3D in the case of this film, surprisingly I'm not sure this addition was used to it's full extent; I frequently found myself forgetting that it was in 3D at all which, in my opinion, shouldn't happen in a 3D movie.
So, overall this film was really very good and it was also nice to see actors such as Gerard Depardieu in cameo roles on the ship before the rest of the film was left in the hands of the fantastic Suraj Sharma. The acting was brilliant from all and the scenes flowed very well between the past and present, with the adult Pi, Irrfan Khan, and the writer, Rafe Spall, providing some welcome comic relief, as well as some very wise words at times: "I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye", for example. The only other thing I would have liked to have seen would be Yann Martel (the original author of life of Pi) playing the writer in the film; it would have been a nice touch and almost as if the story had come full circle. But never mind, the actor playing the writer was also very good and the film really brought the book to life. 8/10.