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Life Of Pi (3D Blu-ray Review)

I was very happy to see all the success that Life of Pi received during its theatrical run.  It is by no means a traditional Hollywood film, which is reflected by its international acclaim being more resonant than its domestic success.  With that said, the film did make a good splash box office-wise and critically, with the film scoring four Academy Awards, including a best director Oscar for Ang Lee.  Life of Pi works on many levels and is certainly suited for many different types of audiences, as it is an incredibly earnest, yet exciting film, and a visual treat for everyone.  The story is simple, but it has a lot more on its mind as well.  Now the Blu-ray is available and it definitely maintains so much of what made this a marvelous film to watch in theaters.

Film: 

The film has a very specific framing device that is not necessarily a spoiler, but one that I will refrain from delving into.  What matters is that a man (Irrfan Khan) is telling a story to a journalist (Rafe Spall) about the journey of a 16-year-old boy attempting to survive an impossible situation.  The boy is Pi (Suraj Sharma), who must survive on a lifeboat, following the sinking of a freighter ship he was a passenger on with his family, initially sailing from India to Canada.  Pi’s father owned a zoo and they were on the freighter along with all of the animals as well, so following the sinking of the ship, Pi is joined on his lifeboat by several animals:  a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

It is no easy task to survive this sort of situation and Pi is eventually faced with living on his lifeboat (and an attached floating raft made up of life jackets and wooden boards from the boat) with just Richard Parker, who would happily eat Pi, if given the chance.  Of course, the two will have to learn to survive together, if at all, if they ever want to reach any sort of salvation.

The film great to look at, which is important as the majority of the runtime takes place on the ocean, as we watch a character have his faith in anything tested.  Instead of being minimal in its presentation, the film has gone on a very ambitious route, effectively bringing to life all of the splendid and exciting visuals that are a part of Pi’s journey.  The animals all look great, various sea life is wonderfully represented, and the depiction of the freighter sinking is among the best boat sinking sequences brought to the screen.  There are also some incredibly intense storm sequences that further keep things very compelling.  The Oscar-winning cinematography by Claudio Miranda is pretty amazing, finding incredibly awesome ways to present the open sea, the undersea aspects, nighttime visuals, and other important visual elements that fully flesh out this story.  It is a combination of this splendid photography with the fantastic CGI that makes this film is able to exist on a plane of reality that is rubbing up against the line of the fantastical so carefully.

Getting past the visuals, I was really taken by how this story was presented, as it is less about whether or not Pi will survive and more about how Pi’s faith is being tested.  Pi, as a character, is given plenty of setup before the film kicks into the ‘marooned at sea’ portion, which is very important, as we can accept who this person is and watch him grow.  As an example, Pi was born Hindu, but he adopts several ideologies at a young age.  He is also very into the idea that he and other animals can be seen as one, as everything, in his eyes, has a soul.  Given this ordeal that he eventually faces, the idea of coming to understand God is a very important one in this film, but not in a way that feels too heavy-handed (though I can certainly see the argument that it is).  There is a definite emotional undercurrent that is reliant on one man dealing with his faith, but not in a self-important sort of way.

Performance-wise, while I really enjoyed Irrfan Khan’s telling of the story, newcomer Suraj Sharma does great work, given that the film is a one-man show for a long time.  He goes through a physical change throughout this film, which informs the state of his character on a mental level as well.  We know Pi is smart from the start, but the way he develops as a survivor, especially in the way his relationship with Richard Parker develops, is crucial to this story and very well reflected in how Sharma brings Pi to life.  Getting back to Irrfan Khan though, the way he tells this story is quite important, as he is relaxed and confident in telling it, but there is a level of sadness in his eyes as well, which leads to one of the more interesting aspects of the story, by the time he has finished telling it.  That said, if there is an area that has the most issues, it is in the way the framing device is used for expository purposes that are not always able to keep the energy of the film moving as successfully.  Not for a lack of trying though.

Ang Lee has directed a superb film in many ways and I was very happy to see him win a second Oscar for his work.  Sure, it is incredibly earnest in its presentation, but it is also frequently exciting and breathtaking at times, with various moments of levity that go a long way in helping out a story surrounding the plight of a man trapped in close quarters with a ferocious tiger.  The technical aspects of this film are also outstanding, as it is one of the best 3D presentations that is certainly worth viewing in that format and has a great handle on mixing in the animal life with the humans present in this film.  Most importantly though, Life of Pi is a film that is able to make a journey like this resonate on an emotional level in the midst of showing off the spectacular.

Video: 
2D Video:              3D Video: 

Life of Pi arrives on Blu-ray in this 3-Disc Collector’s Edition, which includes the Blu-ray and the Blu-ray 3D versions of the film (along with a DVD, but this is Why So Blu!, so who cares, right?).  I will mainly comment on the 3D version of the film, but you really cannot go wrong with either, as Life of Pi looks amazing on Blu-ray, as it should.  The discs are both feature an 1080p AVC-encoded presentation that seems to max out the capabilities of a Blu-ray.  The film looks gorgeous and that is reflected in the film’s use of color and the way the visual effects feel nearly seamless in regards to the animals and look quite extraordinary in the more evocative moments of the film.  So much of this film involves water too, which is depicted in many different ways and that is once again reflected in the quality of the picture on this Blu-ray disc.  The cinematography and use of digital cameras truly shines when it comes to watching this film on Blu-ray.

Additionally, the 3D factor is not to be overlooked.  The film was shot in 3D and that seemed just as apparent in the theater as it does here.  Given that viewing 3D features at home has tended to always go over quite well, I am not surprised that one of the better 3D viewing experiences looks quite fantastic.  It did seem like anything was given up for the sake of viewing the film in this format.  In fact, the film plays a lot better because of it.  I think it is due to the way the film utilizes the effect.  With the exception of a couple very deliberate moments, Life of Pi relies on subtly for the effect; letting characters walk around within various distances of objects; having the movement of the ship play a part in the success of the format, and other things to take into consideration, after seeing the film.  It is a great looking film and the Blu-ray does not take away from this, regardless of the format.

Audio: 

The film scores again in the audio department.  Life of Pi’s Blu-ray(s) comes equipped with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround Track, which roars as loud as Richard Parker.  There are a lot of great examples of how sound plays a huge role in this film and the Blu-ray does proper justice in every instance.  The huge storm that sinks the cargo ship is a technical marvel to watch and is made even greater by how well the use of sound factors in.  The Blu-ray’s audio presentation conveys all of this in the way the thunder booms, the waves crash, the animals panic, and dialogue is still clear and present.  This reflects the quality of the audio on this disc as a whole, as it delivers just as well as the video presentation.

Extras: 

If only Ang Lee did a commentary track.  That would have pushed this Blu-ray over the top for me, but as it stands, we get to see a lot of Lee in the making-of material and get to learn about the film due to the expansive set of special features.  I should also note that there are special features available on both discs, with the features on the 3D disc remaining viewable in 2D, were you to not have a 3D television or Blu-ray player at your disposal.

Features Include:

2D Disc:

A Filmmaker’s Epic Journey – At over an hour long, this documentary covers a lot of the key aspects of production quite effectively, while showing that everyone involved really wanted to make this film come alive.

A Remarkable Vision – A look at the effects work done by Rhythm and Hues to show how Life of Pi was able to earn its Oscar for visual effects.

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright! – A look at how Richard Parker was brought to life via CG and a real life tiger.

Art Gallery – A slideshow of pre-production artwork.

Storyboards – A slideshow of storyboards for several scenes from the film.

            3D Disc:

Deleted Scenes (viewable in 3D and 2D) – About 10 minutes of additional footage from the film.  Somewhat interesting.

VFX Progressions (viewable in 3D and 2D) – A series of visual effects evolution sequences, where the viewer can see how different pivotal scenes came together from pre to post-production.

          Theatrical Trailer (viewable in 3D and 3D)

DVD Copy of the Film

          Digital and UltraViolet Copy of the Film

Summary: 

Upon hearing that this year would see the release of Life of Pi, a 3D film adaptation of the bestselling, but supposedly unfilmable book by Yann Martel, I was immediately feeling the same vibe that I had from Hugo in 2011.  This feeling was amplified further upon learning that it was going to be directed by Ang Lee, a versatile director, who has yet to be grounded in one particular genre.  Both films are fantastical adventures to an extent, which utilize a theme of storytelling at their core.  They are also both visual delights, with the use of 3D actually amplifying the experience as opposed to taking away from it.  The Blu-ray does a fantastic job of emphasizing this.  The visuals are tremendous, the sound is amazing, and the 3D works very well in the home media format.  The expansive extra features also do a great job of dissecting the film and getting the viewer more involved with the Life of Pi.  This wonderful film has been given a fantastic Blu-ray worth picking up.

Order Your Copy Here:

Check Out This Life of Pi 3D Chalk Drawing Video:

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “Life Of Pi (3D Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    Good review.
    I just don’t get the Hugo thing, but I think that’s because I actually liked Pi and absolutely hated Hugo. That may have something to do with it you think?
    I own the iTunes HD download of this film and it looks incredible. I can only imagine what Blu-ray 3D must look like. Having never seen this in the theater it was easy to see what exact scenes were really meant to shine in the 3D format.