I must admit that, even being less than a rabid fan of the CGI-addled cinema that is so prevalent today, I think Ang Lee's CGI-heavy Life of Pi is a pretty goddamn good-looking film. Pretty goddamn good-looking indeed. Granted, the story is rather trite, even with the heavy issues it tackles, but at least it looks good. Sure, there times when the computer-generated Bengal Tiger, looks quite fake, but considering they could not, nor would not, get a real tiger to do the things he is meant to do here (not without ripping off some faces that is), this is more than a fine replacement. At least he isn't as bad as Jar Jar Binks. But seriously, Ang Lee has fashioned a stunning visual work together here, and that alone is enough to recommend such a work - even if the story gets real tiresome, real quickly, and we are left wallowing around inside a schmarmy mess of emotional manipulation, and a bunch of new agey clichés and sucking narrative twaddle. But hey, it is still goddamn good-looking at least.
Granted, the aforementioned new agey clichés and sucking narrative twaddle that permeate the film, are something the mainstream moviegoer will most likely fall for, hook, line and sinker (to use my own cliché'd saying), which is why the movie was such a hit (as was the original novel by Yann Martel) and is currently up for eleven Academy Award nominations. Yes, most of these Oscar nods are in the technical categories, which is all fine and dandy (remember, goddamn good-looking), but it is somehow up for Best Picture and Screenplay as well. This just goes to show that even those who work in the movie industry can still be taken in by such emotional fakery and cheap uplifting hooey as is Life of Pi. But, once again, it is goddamn good-looking. The visuals that Lee engulfs his film in - from the gorgeous colours that are India, to the wide open space of the seas and the stars and all the life within, to the vibrations of ten thousand meerkats running across a so-called magical island, to that damn Bengal Tiger again, to the most amazing flying fish attack one is most likely ever to see - are just purely spectacular. Just purely spectacular. There are actually some moments in the film that one could call downright mind-blowing. One of the few 3D movies to use the technology to its best and fullest extent.
Now, even though the film is full of hokey sentimentality (and this criticism coming from an avowed sentimentalist such as this critic), the underlying idea of the film - the mystical over the mundane, the magical over the middling, art over truth - is a statement that rings very true with my own thoughts of the artistic, the spectacle, the grand illusion. It is just too bad, we have to take such a narratively cheap road to get to such an idea. Perhaps I am a bit too harsh on the storytelling of the film, for I do share its ultimate thoughts, its ultimate goals if you will, but then again, perhaps that is exactly why I am being so harsh on it all. Lee has done much better (The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Brokeback Mountain are more than mere proof of that) but then Lee has been more mundane as well (Lust, Caution and Taking Woodstock are sad reminders of this). What we get with Life of Pi, is a a lot of hokum, that luckily, eventually does enlighten itself with an ending that gives way to not just the obvious mysticism of the story (just more of the same hokum), but to the whole idea of art and beauty and what one would choose to believe. Oh yeah, and it's goddamn good-looking as well.