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Just yesterday the first official image for Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi came online. The picture featured a Indian teenager with a turban standing on one end of a lifeboat, with a roaring Bengal tiger on the other. For those that haven’t read Yann Martel’s novel, or are at least not familiar with the story, it could have been perceived as a very odd still. Luckily, I’ve just come back from watching the first footage from the film and I’m happy to explain what it’s all about.
As mentioned in my previous post about Neighborhood Watch, this morning’s big CinemaCon event was the 20th Century Fox presentation where the studio previewed every single one of their 2012 movies. While some of the material was old (all of the Prometheus stuff shown has already made its way online), but the event was concluded with the world premiere first look at The Life of Pi, which I’m more than happy to tell you about.
The footage opened with a giant boat sailing through a torrential downpour in the middle of the night as the Patel family, along with their zoo animals, make the trip from India to America. Excited about the idea of going out to be in the rain, the young Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) tries to rouse his brother, who simply tells him that he shouldn’t tease the storm. Ignoring the warning, Pi heads to the deck where he has fun at first, but soon realizes that the ship is actually in grave danger and taking on water. Scared, he tries to return to the cabin but finds that the entire inside of the boat has been completely filled with water. Returning to deck, the crew is seen struggling with the lifeboat as animals like hawks, warthogs and monkeys scatter around the deck. As Pi gets on to the lifeboat, a zebra follows him causing the pulley system to fail and sending the lifeboat to the water below with only Pi on it. As he floats further and further away from the ship, he sees something swimming in the water and decides to throw it a life preserver…only to discover that the thing in the water is actually a ferocious Bengal tiger. Fearing for his life, Pi leaps into the water where he sees that the entire ship – with his family still on it – has sunk and is slowly drifting to the bottom of the ocean.
The second scene was a bit more lighthearted. Set during the day, the footage shows Pi still having a lot of trouble dealing with the large cat on his ship. He is then suddenly struck in the face by a tiny fish that has jumped aboard the lifeboat. Seeing an opportunity to try and calm the tiger down, Pi picks up the fish and attempts to throw it to the beast, but it turns out that the fish is actually a flying fish and it takes off. But flying fish travel in schools. Suddenly Pi and the tiger find themselves being attacked by a swarm of fish leaping across the boat, Pi trying to defend himself and the cat trying to catch the creatures in its mouth. When a giant, non-flying fish hops on-board, however, Pi and the tiger once again find themselves at odds, as Pi wants to keep the big fish for himself. Using a hooked staff, the boy is able to keep the tiger at bay and claim the meal as his own.
The first thing that struck me about the footage was its aesthetic beauty. Even in the chaos of both scenes it was impossible to ignore the magnitude and skill of the direction. When Pi leaps off of the lifeboat to try and return to the ship, he is silhouetted underwater against the bright lights of the sunken vessel and it’s a sight to behold (not to mention the tragic magnificence of an aerial shot that shows the lights on the ship flickering out as it sinks lower and lower). Only enhancing the scenes was the 3D, which was used extremely well in the second part, using depth to show Pi’s isolation in the middle of the ocean and making the fish attack more intense.
The Life of Pi opens in theaters on December 21st. To read more about the movie and see the first official image, head over to our Blend Film Database.