November 21st, 2012
05:30 PM ET
For an adaptation that was viewed as "unfilmable," today's "Life of Pi" is earning consistently rave reviews.
Directed by Ang Lee, the project had a number of challenges, starting with the story itself. The protagonist in the novel, written by Yann Martel, spends much of his time stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger as his companion after a major shipwreck. Trying to bring Pi's moving experience to life on film was an admitted risk, but one Lee has impressively managed.
"How do you transform the literal and metaphorical sides of the tale into cinema? You call Ang Lee," says Rolling Stones' Peter Travers. "Every sight and sound is astounding, especially when you consider that the tiger is a digital creation. That puts enormous pressure on the actor who must react to a beast that isn't there. To play Pi, Lee chose the inexperienced Suraj Sharma, then 17, who returns the favor by giving a fine, fearless performance that consistently rings true."
But while Sharma's acting felt authentic, Lee's film didn't exactly strike that note for New York magazine's David Edelstein - but in the best possible way.
"'Life of Pi' looks neither natural nor egregiously fake but vivid, as if a knob had been turned way up on the color of each object’s spirit and the real world into a sort of pantheistic storybook," Edelstein says. "And that’s exactly the right look for what it is: a tale told by the older Pi [Irrfan Khan] to a writer [Rafe Spall] who has sought him out after hearing that Pi had a story to make him 'believe in God.' I’m not sure how I felt about God at the end of 'Life of Pi,' but I fervently believed in the magic of movies."
Lee's use of 3-D technology to weave together his story drew a comparison to 2009's huge holiday hit, "Avatar," from Time's Richard Corliss.
"To compare 'Life of Pi' with 'Avatar' is not to suggest that Lee’s movie will challenge the Cameron movie for all-time box office supremacy," Corliss said. "But 'Pi' is a giant leap forward, outward and upward in expanding the resources of the evolving medium of movies. Magical realism was rarely so magical and never before so real."
If you've seen "Life of Pi," let us know if you agree with the high praise the film's been receiving. You can also share your thoughts by taking a picture of your ticket stub, tagging it #stubreview and tweeting @CNNiReport.
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