Life of Pi – Eh. Michelle’s Review

Suraj Sharma and tiger in Life of Pi

These are the days that try a critics soul.  There are many movies that I watch, especially during Award season, where I can recognize the technical and artistic quality but ultimately feel it is not for me and come away feeling a bit cold by the experience.  This is what I’ve said about several movies over the last few weeks. Director Ang Lee’s latest film Life of Pi is another such movie.

From a purely technical perspective Life of Pi is at times a very beautiful movie to behold with some really nice imagery. However the pacing of the movie felt a bit off. It had long stretches where not much happened, at times it was boring and preachy. David Magee’s screenplay and the movie is based on Yann Martel’s popular book of the same name.  The story about an Indian boy who survives a shipwreck has lots of gripping moments.

Pi’s (Suraj Sharma) unwavering faith in God becomes a primary talking point in the movie. Pi practices three religions at one time and there are numerous discussions about the power of faith and god. The movie eventually becomes preachy (no pun intended) about the topic. The performances were all uniformly good but it is amazing that this is Suraj’s first film. It is a daunting task to have to carry this thing on his shoulders and he is captivating for most of it.

Last year I said the best performance I saw all year was Joey the horse in War Horse.  This year’s best performance honors goes to Richard Parker the Tiger.  His expressive eyes bore into your soul. You could almost tell exactly what this grand animal was thinking or trying to express. The CGI work here is pretty amazing.

Life of Pi Movie Review

Life of Pi does a good job of establishing the character. We find out all about Pi’s life growing up, how he was picked on for his name being pronounced “Pissing” by the kids. How he eventually shortened it to Pi.

We find out that Pi’s family owned a zoo and he was taught early on to fear tigers. Especially Richard Parker who got that name by accident. To teach Pi a lesson about Richard Parker’s nature his father Santosh (Adil Hussain) ties a goat up to bars and we watch Richard Parker eat it. How the lion got the deer through the bars is a mystery.

The story is told from the point of view of an adult PI (Irrfan Khan) who tells a writer (Rafe Spall) his life’s history. This plot device takes away the suspense because ultimately you know he’s going to survive. The twist at the end of the movie kind of ruins everything that came before. I’m getting real tired of the “did it really happen” meme this season. It’s not clever writing, it is just lazy and annoying.

One of the more spectacular sequences is the sinking of the ship. Ang Lee does an amazing job of creating the tense storm, but somehow it lacks emotional weight because we never got to meet the crew and the ultimate destruction, sinking and death of the crew is all done, basically off camera.  We see Pi watching in horror, but we don’t get the impact.

It is not fair to criticize a movie for the marketing campaign. However, folks walking into this expecting a movie etched in fantasy and surrealism will be sorely disappointed. The movie is grounded in “reality.” We get shot after shot of Pi and Richard Parker and the vastness of the ocean. At first these moments are truly beautiful but by the fifth time it is hard to be wowed anymore. All the best visual splendor was spoiled by the trailers.

Life of Pi was a disappointment, but a mild one.

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40 thoughts on “Life of Pi – Eh. Michelle’s Review”

  1. The ending added to the movie, and that was the point of the message. Emotional weight, not “wait.” The slow, eerie sinking of the ship was very impactful. They called him “Pissing,” not pissy. Richard Parker was a Tiger not a Lion. Your review is automatically invalidated. I really don’t understand how you are even a critic… wow.

  2. You obviously missed the entire point of the book and movie. Yes, it’s about religion and believing in a higher power, but the point is that you should believe in a higher power (the fictional story- the tiger on the boat story) because believing that there is no god (the truth, i.e. the horrible story about the boat crew) is depressing. Either way, it ends the same (you die or in the case of Life of Pi- well, you know how the story ends). Instead of being “preachy” as you put it, the author is basically saying there is no god. But, since we will die either way, why not believe the better story?

    1. Pascal’s Wager.

      All things considered it’s better to believe and be wrong than not believe and be wrong.

      1. it is indeed basically Pascal’s Wager. The only problem with Pascal’s Wager is that it is pretty much debunked in most forms of philosophy and theology, so to be thoroughly hit over the head with a 400 year old concept as if it has logical merit, is a tad on the surprising side.

        1. Uhhh.. Alright genius, I’ll humor you, explain to me just how it is that one “debunks” Pacal’s Wager. I’d like to hear your premises.
          The Roman Church dominates theology and Pascal is a beloved member of that tradition.
          There may be bitter atheists who claim to overturn the logic, even great ones. But greater philosophers have affirmed it.
          To suggest that it’s been put to bed is extremely uncultured and intellectually adolescent.

          As for suggesting that it’s worthless because it’s old, you’ll have to actually drop some names so I know who these genius philosophers are who don’t read things because they’re old.. (Im reading Ancient Greek and there are a few future philosophers in my class and, believe it or not, they think the older the better when it comes to philosophy.)

          I’m not sure if you actually said anything in your second paragraph. Sounds like banal New Age drivel. (A religion is worthless to me if it doesn’t even change the events in my life.)

          1. “explain to me just how it is that one “debunks” Pacal’s Wager”

            Even ignoring the probability that any individual believing in a certain god(s) based on Pascal’s Wager would lead to “insincere belief” (and hence be a pointless endeavor to curry favor with a god), Pascal’s Wager is piss-poor logic . One example:

            Because of the multitude of possible religions, if any faith is as
            likely as the other, the probability of the christian being right is
            P=1/n where n is the number of possible faiths. If we assume that there
            is an infinite amount of possible gods (i.e. ideas of gods), the
            probability of you being right is infinitely small.

            Because Pascal’s wager fails to tell us which god is likely to be the
            right one, you have a great probability that you picked the wrong
            religion and go to some other religion’s version of hell.

          2. God is the Creator of the Universe.

            We all know what we’re talking about when we argue about God.

            There’s a 1/1 chance that I know what I mean when I say God, to take up your little hankering for trying to make yourself look more knowledgable by contriving, or more likey borrowing that fun little atheist nihilist equation.

            So before we even get started your attempt to pit religions against one another is deceitful and worthless. (Read the end of the Chronicles of Narnia, where the follower of the wrong god who follows the True God in his heart and deeds is saved while those who claimed to worship the True God but actually worshipped some other god aren’t.)

            If we want to take your materialistic approach I would ask you what other religion single handedly took a hoard of murdering raping barbarians and inspired some of them to create the modern university, hospital and charity itself.
            Even your atheists were all imitating intellectual discussions great Christian philosophers had already covered. They just took up the nihilistic perspective because that was new and rebellious and sexy and it made it easy to be a scholar celebrity like Hitchens and his predecessors, even if you weren’t all that helpful in the quest for greater knowledge.

            So the odds are that I follow the religion that made the progression of the rest of the world possible. Further no other tradition of any sort presents such a logical and thorough explanation of existence. Secularism itself, including militant atheism and agnosticism, is a cheap copy of liberal Christianity, with God removed to allow for all the cheap desires.

            None of your venom will hide that your beliefs aren’t sophisticated, they’re bankrupt, only popular because they provoke Christians; like evil, worthless in and of themselves, a poaching of what’s good and meaningful.

          3. “We all know what we’re talking about when we argue about God.”

            Your conception of “god” is different than a person of another faith (or denomination for that manner). Therefore, you cannot logically lump your conception of “god” with others. Even a straight deist conception of “god” is that: just another conception out of an very, very LARGE number.

            ‘There’s a 1/1 chance that I know what I mean when I say God”

            Yeah, you mean the Christian conception of god. You are ignoring all the other numerous possibilities. In any case, it’s not about YOU, it’s about logic.

            “God is the Creator of the Universe, the Uncaused Cause”

            Just that? You a deist? (i.e. A deist would laugh at your claim that some man was sent down on a suicide mission by his god-dad….and son and dad happen to be the same person as well….he would say WTF loudly..the point here being (in terms of Pascal’s Wager) that the conceptions of god are different).

            The rest of your post (on C.S. Lewis’s fantasy novels, on atheists, on militant atheism, on secularism etc) is off-topic and therefore not relevant to Pascal’s Wager.

            The point I am making, btw, is only one logical fallacy of the Wager (there are lots more), and has been pointed out many times:

            Dennis Diderot (1746, on the Wager): “An Imam could reason just as well this way”

            J. L. Mackie (1986, on the Wager): “the church within which alone salvation is to be found is not necessarily the Church of Rome, but perhaps that of the Anabaptists or the Mormons or the Muslim Sunnis or the worshipers of Kali or of Odin.”

          4. No. You may have some ideas and call it God to try to mess things up.

            But the great majority of the world has an agreed upon meaning for God.

            How is the idea that someone who worships God by acting morally, according to what truly is God’s will, but gets some other details wrong is still quite able to be saved not relevant?
            I was directly responding to your suggestion that we can’t agree about every detail on God so we must not be talking about the same thing.

            Deism wouldn’t exist without Christianity so it’s silly to me when people speak of Deism as more rational than the tradition from which it sprung (and I feel the same about Western atheism, agnosticism, “New Age”spirituality and shallow westernized Buddhism and Hinduism–they’re all ex Christians remaking Christianity without Christ and adding in some cool new cultural elements).
            Many of the greatest philosophers in history were devout Christians of one stripe or another, so it makes you look foolish when you suggest Christianity doesnt pass your intellectual muster.

            As I said, Christendom has proppelled society in a way that none of those other traditions have. Christians made secularism and modernity possible.

            None of your tired atheist tropes will change that.

    2. who says the crew story is the true story? Might that not just be the story that Pi made up to please the adults, who wouldn’t believe in more incredible (but possibly true things). Ok, apart from the island and the teeth and the blind man in a boat…. but everything else in the first story is, actuallly, plausible.

      1. The details in the crew story are too horrific and too specific to NOT be true- especially in the book. If you were going to make up a different story about the crew, would you put those terrible details in it (about your mother specifically)? No one would- thus, the crew story must be true.

  3. “How the lion got the deer through the bars is a mystery.”

    Yes, yes it is…. since there was no lion.

    Ok, did it not sink in that all of the “unbelievable” things that happened, from Richard Parker suddenly leaping out from beneath the boat cover when he hadn’t been there before when Pi was digging around and the hyena was hiding there, to the net full of bananas (since bananas don’t float), to a carnivorous island, were unbelievable because they did not really happen- they happened metaphorically. That was the beauty and message- life is more beautiful and wondrous if we are willing to believe the unbelievable.

  4. AC – CENTUATE the POSITIVE
    DE – EMPHASIZE the NEGATIVE
    and you wont be a miserable atthhh-i-est!

  5. the twist wasnt written this season, the twist was there in the books since 1999… plus it actually isnt a twist, in the book, i remember it was just an alternate explanation to nonbelievers…

    1. yep, he gave the ‘realistic’ story to the insurance reps because they said they couldn’t use his ‘unbelievable’ story in the report.

  6. I think, like many of the film’s critical reviewers, you ascribe faults that exist in the source material to the movie. Let’s be clear here – all the flaws you point out (preachy, unbelievable, lacking in emotional weight, did-it-really-happen ending) are evident in the book. The movie is faithful to the book – that is not the movie’s fault.

    As other commenters have pointed out, the book is essentially a defense of Pascal’s wager. Not a thoughtful or convincing defense, but a defense nonetheless.

    As for the notion that life is more beautiful and wondrous if we are willing to believe the unbelievable, I have to disagree. The unbelievable is merely a cheap thrill. Reality is far more wondrous than fantasy could ever be. We’re just more used to reality, thus more willing to ignore its wonders.

    1. Or maybe they’re not bitter atheists like you who spend all their time in faculty lounges dominated by bitter, miserable nihilists competing to reject philosophy they don’t like with obscure references to equally bitter and nihilist philosophers as if that proves it wrong.
      You guys have made yourselves so stupid and worthless that you think that meaningful wisdom and intelligence come from quoting the most obscure bitter atheists and agnostics in your long line of bitter atheists and agnostics.
      Other people find it too boring to read these banal fools and so you claim to be experts because no one confronts your nonsense.

      You better thank God for the giant wasteful beaurucracy that makes the worthless lives of godless modern faculty leftist party philosophers possible.

      In the real world atheists have the highest suicide rate.
      So I agree, the proof is in the pudding.
      (Besides the looniest fantasy of all is that you’re a self creating man god who POOF! appeared from thin air, made himself forget his own miraculous and pointless self creation and then came to earth with all the theists…)

      1. You might consider reading “Why I believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary”. by Kennith Daniels.

        It would give you a better understanding of the Atheistic perspective. Not attempting to make you an unbeliever, I’m sure you’re smart enough to come to your own conclusions.

        1. Can you explain what part of atheism I need a better understanding of?
          Or do you just want to try to look smart by recommending some book I don’t care about like all atheists? (Not all pedants are atheists, but all atheists are pedants!)

          I used to be atheist. I found reading other atheists to be so banal and morbidly boring.
          I’ve got far too much Dante, Dostoevsky, and Shakespeare left to read to worry about some atheists who are intimidated and enraged by authentic intellectual belief, but don’t offer anything new or meaningful. I get it..you guys hate religious people and you think we believe in silly myths because they got Jesus’ birthday wrong or “7 days” must be a literal meaning and we might as well believe in a flying spaghetti monster and lets just believe in nothing because that’s the safest way not to look dopey among the other philosophers. Got anything else to say? (I literally can’t find an atheist who says anything deeper than this, despite writing endless overwordy tomes of their rambling hypocritical incoherent beliefs.)

          1. You’ve generalized atheists as ‘bitter’ 14 times so far, that signifies a lack of understanding, IMO. Ironically, you seem to be the most bitter and angry person in this thread…I politely offered you a reading that I though might be enriching (and that would allow you to better defend your point of view), and in response you lash out at me.

          2. Atheists have the highest suicide and depression rates and self report being miserable at a higher level than believers.
            Atheists could be happier and Christianity would still be true, but calling them bitter is not a stretch based on the statistics.

            I’m not angry at all. You’re just not used to a Christian who’s more worried about speaking a bit of the truth than not offending some bitter atheist.
            That probably says that the other Christians are more Christian than me because they have the self control to not rightly call you bitter because they dont want to hurt your feelings or start a fight.

            I’m messed up though so I’m happy to tell you that Christianity is far superior to the rotting corpse of hedonistic secularism.

          3. You believe in God, we get it. No one cares, move on. Dogma like yours is what is driving more and more people to Atheism.

          4. Ok Augustine, let’s use your ‘logic’

            It’s a fact that scientists are more intelligent than the general population, and the majority of scientists are not Christians. So, relatively speaking, Christians are dumb. Christians could be smarter and Atheism would still be true, but calling them dumb is not a stretch based on the statistics. And since you’re a Christian that makes you as dumb as I am bitter, right?

            It’s amusing how virtually all Christians I meet seem to believe that it’s impossible to live a meaningful, happy life without the belief in heaven. You don’t have to believe in Santa to enjoy the holidays. Maybe your lives are so miserable otherwise that you don’t understand how anyone could take it without the promise of something more. If so, that’s pretty sad.

            Oh, and your use of the ignorant “hedonistic secularism” argument is revealing that, again, you have no idea what you’re talking about. My morality comes from not wanting to hurt others, and in particular those I care most about. Maybe you need the threat of Hell to keep you from cheating on your spouse or harming others, I don’t.

            You say you used to be an Atheist, but I think that’s a lie. Maybe you weren’t a faithful Christian, but I seriously doubt that at that time you had weighed the evidence of religion vs non-religion, and had come to the conclusion that a personal god doesn’t exist. You were probably just a non-believer by default, going along and enjoying yourself partying and sewing your wild oats…then you started to have problems in your life, were overwhelmed, gave up, and then “found Jesus” over a period of time…realizing that all your screw-ups weren’t your fault at all, it was all part of “God’s plan for you” (YAY!). I know this is probably the case because I see it constantly repeated at church. Yes, I’m a lifelong churchgoer, I was raised as a Christian and married one who still believes…I go out of respect to my wife (and I enjoy picking apart the pastor’s rational for belief). I mentioned a book to you because it comes from the perspective of a devout Christian missionary who became a nonbeliever after studying the evidence objectively…you would certainly benefit from the perspective he gives. But like most Christians, you’re probably conditioned not to read anything that could cause you to test your faith (the Devil is a sneaky SOB, he’ll trick you!). Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, right?

          5. There is plenty to say, but when you state that your problem with atheism is that it is boring, one tends to gently roll their eyes and give you a toy. Don’t worry your little head about all these things, yea, kiddo?

          6. One tends to think you’re a dork after that comment. I like your name though!!

            But who, again, is it that you’re recommending above Shakespeare, Dante and Dostoevsky?

      2. Gosh, I’m an atheist, and I’m quite “live and let live”, yet here’s the Christian calling me bitter, miserable, stupid and worthless. Why would I want to be part of a group of people with such a vicious opinion of people they’ve never even met? Just sayin’! I don’t remember Jesus ever calling people loony or worthless.

  7. Well, I’m an Atheist and I enjoyed the book and the movie. I don’t understand why some people seem to be so offended by the message…in reality for most people the belief in god does lead to a happier & more meaningful life, which is all that really matters. He’s not saying that you should choose to believe in god, he’s saying “why not believe in god, if it makes life more interesting for you?”. It’s a focus on this life on earth. This is different from Pascal’s Wager, which focuses on the afterlife (you’re going to die, so why not believe in god just in case there’s a heaven). I could see being offended if the author advocated a single religion and path to heaven (which he intentionally does not).

    1. Pascal’s Wager doesn’t focus on the afterlife, it takes it into account.
      He says believe now because that’s smarter now and for eternity.

      Any logic that even goes near Pascal’s Wager, as this movie’s does, is bound to be held in contempt by atheists who make a living being bitter at organized religion, most forcefully exemplified by the Roman Catholic Church and their Pope, one of the greatest philosophers in the world. (Look up L’Acadamie francaise).

  8. Hey, you all aren’t supposed to have “intelligent” conversations here. You are supposed to be calling me an illiterate idiot with no taste! 🙂

  9. You are a terrible critic, before you write this garbage, please make sure to read the book with an open mind, and I have read your other reviews, not the best piece of non lit if I say so myself

  10. “How the lion got the deer through the bars is a mystery.”

    How you got your animals mixed up is a bigger mystery.

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