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Non-Review Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi is visually stunning. It is an amazing accomplishment. I’ll be the first to admit that I am skeptical of 3D, but in the hands of the right director – Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and, now, Ang Lee – it is a fascinating storytelling tool. The computer-generated imagery is magical, as are the compositions and scene transitions. There’s no doubt that Ang Lee is a superb craftsman. Indeed, the visual majesty of the film is enough to make you dismiss some of the lighter narrative elements, accepting some of the incongruities as expressions of “magical realism” or simply a function of allegorical storytelling. It’s not the densest, or the most insightful, story you will see, but it’s well-told.

Unfortunately, then you reach the end, and Life of Pi tries to get considerably smarter than it actually is. It pulls a clumsy narrative trick that leaves the audience feeling a bit disoriented and more than a little manipulated. Life of Pi finds itself torn between trying to be a beautiful allegorical story of survival and a deeper commentary on the stories that we tell. Forcing one undermines the other. While Life of Pi might convince you that a boy and a tiger can share a lifeboat, the two competing aspects of Life of Pi sink the story.

Not quite a glowing recommendation...

Not quite a glowing recommendation…

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Life of Pi Trailer

I’m fairly lukewarm on Ang Lee. When he’s great, he’s amazing – one of the most visually arresting directors working in the medium. However, sometimes I find some fo his work (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm) to be a little self-indulgent. Still, Lee has a wonderful flexibility and a willingness to work outside his comfort zone that is hard not to admire. The trailer for Life of Pi first appeared on-line yesterday, and it looks pretty amazing from a visual standpoint. Adapted from the iconic and acclaimed novel, the film looks to have a wonderfully hypersaturated feel to it. In fact, the final shot looks like something from a classic Walt Disney film brough to life.

I’m calling it now. Unless it turns out to be completely abysmal, we have a Best Picture front-runner.

Carrying the Banner: Why Ed Norton Remains the Best Bruce Banner…

I had the pleasure of seeing The Avengers last week. It’s a solid film, and Whedon does a great job tying it all together. What Whedon does especially well is presenting us with a live-action version of the Hulk that really works. Whedon’s green goliath is treated like an actual character rather than a special effect or a plot point, and it looks absolutely incredible, appropriately enough. However, I can’t help but feel like the movie still struggles with the Bruce Banner aspect of the character, and that Mark Ruffalo isn’t a convincing replacement for Ed Norton, who was as perfect a fit for the rage-managing monster as Robert Downey Jr. was for the redeemable Tony Stark.

Distilled Banner?

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Non-Review Review: Hulk

Ang Lee directing a superhero movie? He’s certainly a strange choice to handle the first big screen adaptation of Marvel’s iconic green monster to the big screen, but arguably a smart one. Hulk is at its best when it hints at the psychological melodrama playing out behind its lead character, but suffers greatly from the fact that it is apparently really uncertain about its source material or what it wants to be. It’s weird to see a movie so wonderfully risky in one sense, but so utterly bland in others. Hulk is an experiment, but sadly isn’t consistent enough to be a successful one.

"Hulk Splash!"

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