I often approach film adaptions of my favorite books with anxious caution. I’ve been burned in the past and there’s nothing worse than watching the characters and story I love damaged beyond repair by a ham-fisted director or a hideously miscast actor. However, there’s something about the little we’ve seen and heard from Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi that leaves me cautiously optimistic. I think it’s going to blow our collective minds, and here’s why:
1. The Book
Few books make me want to flip them over and read them again as soon as I’m finished, but this one did. It’s hard to go into too much detail without ruining the story, but anyone who has also read the book (or looked it up on Wikipedia major spoilers, be warned) will know what I’m talking about. I’ll tread as carefully as possible here and give you a brief, spoiler-free, synopsis.
Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel, now an adult living in Canada, tells the story of his miraculous survival when the ocean liner on which he and his family were emigrating from India to Canada sank, killing everyone else on board. His story takes place over the 227 days he spent in a small life boat, with just a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker for company.
I know that sounds absolutely bizarre but please, take my word for it, this is a story you need to hear. It deals with spirituality and brutality in equal measures and one particular element that will smack you full force in the face with it’s awesomeness and leave you reeling. How the hell one could approach filming this is unfathomable to me, but that brings me on to my second reason…
2. Ang Lee
When whispers of this adaptation started circling in early 2003, the concern arose: Is the book un-filmable? Considering the majority of it takes place at sea with a boy and four wild animals as its cast, most people would say yes. Thankfully, Ang Lee isn’t most people. Directors, M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuarn and Jean-Pierre Jeunet were all in various stages of talks to helm the film at one point or another, but nothing stuck. Enter Ang Lee, Oscar-winner, with a very diverse range of films under his belt, incredibly visual style and most importantly, the balls to face up to the challenge of filming the un-filmable. David Magee (Finding Neverland) has taken care of the script and there’s something about Lee that gives me the impression one of my favorite books is in safe hands.
Wait, wait! Don’t dismiss it straight away! Yes, Life Of Pi will be in 3D, that we can confirm, but before you start bitching on Facebook, or decide that it’s just another gimmick, take a look at the tweets coming out of CinemaCon, where the first footage was shown earlier this week: (via The Film Stage:)
@Breznican: Ok, so Ang Lees “Life of Pi” will be getting a best picture Oscar nomination. The footage screened at #CinemaCon could claim one for short!
@slashfilm: Footage from Ang Lees Life of Pi screened at CinemaCon: full of cinematic magic, wonder. Underwater 3d stuff looks amazing. I know its too early and stupid to make such claims but Id be amazed if Life of Pi isnt nominated for Best Picture.
@moiseschiu: LIFE OF PI footage absolutely wrecked me. I cried. Choking up thinking about it. This doesnt happen to me. The master at work. #cinemacon
These are just a taste of the overwhelmingly positive feedback coming out of CinemaCon, screaming early Oscar predictions? After just a short preview? Putting aside my all-consuming jealousy at their access to footage, I can’t say I’m surprised. On the back of the book, one picture and some tweets, I’m gonna say it: Life Of Pi for Best Picture at The 2012 Academy Awards.
The most interesting thing about the choice to go with 3D which Ang Lee himself found challenging, (he likened operating the cumbersome 3D cameras to ‘operating a refrigerator’) is that it’s not the stereo-typical action extravaganza that normally facilitates a 3D Movie. Between this and Scorsese’s Hugo, could 3D be finally becoming a legitimate medium through which stories are told and not just a tactic to enhance superheroes fighting? I hope so.