Life of Pi came from what was declared “an unfilmable novel”, but I don’t read books, I wait for the film to come out and this was one hell of an experience on the big screen, but can it be as much of a stunning experience on the small screen?
Well, obviously, the image you’re watching at home is not going to be as big as a cinema screen would allow – unless you’re watching with a projector set-up. That said, I’m watching it on a 50″ 3D TV and it still beats any 3D film I’ve seen, at the cinema or at home. I wish I could watch it each time on a cinema screen, but that’s not possible, so it’s very pleasing to know that Fox have turned up trumps with a transfer that’s as flawless as you’d demand for a film with such incredible visuals.
All I really knew about Life of Pi before I saw it was that a shipwrecked young lad ends up on a boat with an adult Bengal tiger and lots of weird stuff happens.
Well, to back up a little, Pi’s childhood isn’t an easy one, as he was chrstined “Piscine”, which sounds like “pissing”, especially when the school bullies try to make something out of it, and to retort he shortens it to “Pi” and learns to recount the value of the mathetmatical constant to many decimal places. Then, in 1978, just as he’s starting to discover girls, his parents have decided that life in India isn’t for them, given that Pi’s father is due to start a job in Canada.
However, as we know, the huge container ship will never make its destination because Pi (Suraj Sharma) ends up on seemingly the only lifeboat with an adult Bengal tiger which, due to a clerical error, has been named Richard Parker. Hence, while dealing with the fact he has lost his family, he has to contend with not knowing which will end his own life first – thirst or a ravenous carnivore.
So, what follows during the section that we’ve all come to see is some of the most exceptional 3D work you’ll witness in a long time. I was initially concerned I’d sat too close to the front as I’ve chosen to sit directly in front of the ‘Premier’ seats, which are often left empty as they’re priced at a premium and only a step away from conventional seats, and I figured it’d be quiet in the cinema at the last screening on New Year’s Eve. But I was wrong. Half of Manchester also decided to pay a visit. Anyway, my close-up concern was there because a 3D trailer for something else beforehand showed some elements to be unbearably close-up, and there certainly weren’t any more centralised seats further back.
However, when the film began, everything was fine, even when long stick appeared to poke out of the screen, something which in other films has resulted in looking a bit blurry, not just on my home set-up, but in the cinema too, like when I went to see Silent Hill Revelation 3D at the same cinema. Spectacular special effects await you during this section and I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll only make mention of one scene which has been shown on TV countless times and involves flying fish. This is also worth noting as it’s one of a handful of times where, bizarrely, the screen ratio changes.
The film is presented at 1.85:1 for the majority of it, yet, after a fish hits Pi in the face and he throws it back at the tiger, black bars are added to give a 2.35:1 ratio so that when fish start flying about, they appear to occasionally travel over the edge of the screen. Knowing the ratio changed and having an eye for these things – and especially since I knew it was coming – I found it a rather odd change Similarly, I was looking out for a shot which lasts just less than a minute and is in a 1.33:1 (4:3) ratio, an overhead shot also featuring some special effects which I won’t detail here. Again, I’m not quite sure what the point was there. And I’m led to believe that there are some scenes in a slightly wider ratio of 2.00:1, but I didn’t spot these at the time and I wasn’t looking out for them anyway as I wasn’t aware of them until I later checked it on IMDB.
Most Odeon cinemas have a combination of 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 screens and I wanted to see this on the biggest of the former that I could. However, at the time I wanted to go, there was only one screening left of New Year’s Eve (5.40pm) and so it was Hobson’s choice. And it was on one of their 2.35:1 screens (screen 12), which made me sceptical that the flying fish scene would be done justice as I’m always conscious of the screen being so much wider than it is tall and so when that scene comes in, it’ll effectively be windowboxed. This is annoying, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. However, for future films I’ll be looking to see if I can get screen dimensions for all screens at both the Manchester Printworks and Trafford Centre Odeons so I can compare screening times with the screen sizes and choose accordingly if it’s necessary. I did as best as I could with sitting close enough without it being overpowering, however.
How are the extras? Find out on page 2.