Life of Pi 3D (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Ang Lee
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 123 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 49.99
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Review Date: March 12, 2013
When his father finally decides to leave India for Canada and sell the animals in his small zoo once there, Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan as an adult, Gautam Belur and Ayush Tandon in younger incarnations) disconsonately joins his family on a freighter sailing across the Pacific. However, a horrific storm at sea sinks the ship leaving Pi on a lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a menacing hyena, Orange Juice his beloved orangutan, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Adrift for a long time with only Pi and Richard inevitably remaining, the two undergo a series of sea adventures as they forge an uneasy alliance as they establish personal and instinctual boundaries with one another.
Screenwriter David Magee utilizes a framing story as the adult Pi tells his yarn to a visiting writer (Rafe Spall) who’s been told the narrative will leave him believing in God. Thus, for some, the knowledge of Pi’s ultimate survival will be something of a thrill suppressant knowing he’s alive to be able to tell his remarkable story (in two distinctly different versions as we’re surprised to hear near film’s end) despite undergoing a number of perilous close calls on and off his lifeboat. But like other films where the ending is ultimately known, that doesn’t stop director Ang Lee from forging a splendidly unique tale filled with remarkable imagery (Pi looking underwater as the ship sinks into the abyss is one of the more haunting images from last year’s movies) and containing some stunning sequences: the tempestuous sinking of the Tsimtsum and the agonizing fight for survival, a symbolic hallucinatory scene about ninety minutes in, an eerie night with phosphorescent sea creatures ending in disaster, the flying fish episode, and the haunting and deadly Meerkat Island. And throughout we’re treated to the enterprising, never-say-die Pi as he solves problem after problem in ingenious ways which keeps our rooting interest for him high at all times.
Suraj Sharma gives a disarming and committed performance, remarkable for never having acted before and with no stunt double on the film, that’s actually Sharma doing all of the tossing about, all of the underwater work, and the danger-filled maneuvering around his various apparatuses. As his adult persona, Irrfan Khan is also quite disarming and ingratiating, a fine match to his younger self, and Ayush Tandon as his adolescent incarnation is quite amusing in the school sequences. Adil Hussain and Tabu are excellent as his parents who are free thinking enough to let Pi find his own way through his formative years but with firm guidance. Gérard Depardieu has a funny cameo as a feisty cook on board the freighter, and Rafe Spall reacts naturally as the fascinated writer hearing the amazing experiences for the first time.
3D implementation - 5/5
The film is framed at its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio (which briefly goes to 2.40:1 during the flying fish sequence) and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s a gorgeous transfer from beginning to end with wonderful sharpness and color rich and lustrous when appropriate (the greens in the tea fields are especially eye-popping) and darkly ominous during those monstrous storms at sea. Flesh tones are entirely natural throughout. At one moment, one might glimpse the tiniest bit of aliasing in the tiger’s whiskers, but it’s so minor that it’s all but insignificant. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Like 2011’s Hugo, Life of Pi is completely transformed into a finer, more immersive experience through the use of 3D. The sense of infinite depth in the horizon at sea is particularly superb, and underwater scenes take on a special magnificence with their openness and majesty in 3D especially when seen from underneath as fish and other creatures swim in different planes under the boat. The sense of space on that medium-sized lifeboat gains tremendously with the extra dimension added, and the scenes on meerkat island are likewise transformed into an almost other-worldly experience stereoptically. As for the projections, they are wonderfully thought out from a hummingbird which flies before our eyes early on to sticks and poles which either protrude toward us or in point of view shots that seem to come from our own hands. In the flying fish scene, there’s a magnificent moment as the screen ratio widens when a fish hits something in the frame and then flops out in front of the letterbox frame seemingly at our feet (Disney animators did something similar in G-Force to equally stunning effect.) There is absolutely no crosstalk at all in fashioning this magnificent 3D achievement.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix is all one could hope for in this kind of special effects extravaganza. It’s tremendously expressive throughout with the wide, wide soundstage playing host to a variety of split surrounds and putting us right in the middle of a couple of hellacious sea storms that will give your audio equipment a major workout. Richard Parker’s growls are wonderfully directionalized as he moves around the boat, and Mychael Danna’s Oscar-winning score gets the full surround experience. Dialogue is always completely understandable and has been placed in the center channel.
The 3D disc contains the following special features (which can be viewed in either 3D or 2D). All bonus features on both HD discs are in 1080p:
Five deleted scenes can be viewed separately or together in a 13 ¼ -minute montage.
There are two VFX Progressions which show elements from two scenes in plate form (raw footage), with animation added, and the final product. The “Tsimtsum Sinks” sequence lasts 12 ¾ minutes. The “Wave Tank” sequence lasts 2 ¼ minutes.
The original theatrical trailer lasts 2 ¼ minutes.
The 2D disc contains the feature film and the following 1080p features:
“A Filmmaker's Epic Journey” details in 63 ½ minutes the four year trek to the finished film concentrating on comments from director Ang Lee, film editor Tim Squyres, screenwriter David Magee, and others. The documentary (divided into four sections which can be pulled up separately) covers the preproduction work, the casting of Pi and the training regimen for Suraj Sharma, the filming schedules in Taiwan and India, the working with real tigers and the CG work with computer-generated animals, continuity difficulties, solving the diccidulties of using the specially constructed wave tank, the use of 3D for the film, and its triumphant premiere at the New York Film Festival.
“A Remarkable Vision” is a 19 ½-minute piece on the elaborate preparations for the special effects work done first in computer pre-visualization and then adding layer upon layer to get to the finished product. Ang Lee, Tim Squyres, special effects supervisor Jean-Martin Desmarais, among others, provide primary commentary.
“Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright” discusses the extraordinary CG work that went into fashioning a photo-realistic tiger to play Richard Parker in the movie. This runs 8 ½ minutes with lots of side-by-side comparisons between the real tiger used for reference in the lifeboat set with the computer-generated one that appears in the frame with actor Suraj Sharma.
There are two step-through galleries. One is composed of artwork for various sets and key sequences in the movie. The other is an array of storyboards for the film.
The disc is BD-Live ready and contains one exclusive (and surprisingly important) featurette not available on the disc: “The Importance of Storytelling” which details in 20 ½ minutes the adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel to the screen by screenwriter David Magee.
The third disc in the set is the combination DVD/digital copy of the movie.
4.5/5 (not an average)
A thrilling home theater experience especially in 3D, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi was deservedly celebrated as one of 2012’s best films. The reference quality video and audio encodes plus an excellent array of bonus material make it a clear choice for a very high recommendation.