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Life of Pi is an upcoming 3D fantasy adventure film based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Yann Martel. The film is directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) based on an adapted screenplay by David Magee. Suraj Sharma will play Pi. Life of Pi is scheduled to be released on December 21, 2012.
Pi is a youth who is the only person to survive the sinking of a freighter. He finds himself on a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger.
LAS VEGAS -- 20th Century Fox showed off footage from a handful of splashy summer blockbusters, including Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," at CinemaCon, the theater owners' convention now underway. But studio co-chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos made it clear that they're hopeful their biggest movie this year will be December's "Life of Pi," Ang Lee's 3-D adaptation of Yann Martel's best-selling novel.
"Ang wants to raise the bar," Rothman said. "The medium skips forward again [with 'Life of Pi'], and you will believe the unbelievable."
Indeed, the footage shown from the film seemed to inspire a resounding positive reaction from the crowd. In it, 17-year-old protagonist Pi finds himself on a cargo ship with his family and a slew of zoo animals when a storm begins to rage in the middle of the night. The young man rushes to the ship's deck to witness the intense weather first-hand when he ends up being thrown overboard and into a lifeboat with a zebra and a Bengal tiger. The 3-D technology was especially impressive in the underwater scenes, where Pi floated lifelessly for nearly a minute, and in moments when waves of bubbling water and animals came rushing toward him.
Despite the encouraging response from the crowd -- many of whom were even brought to tears and seemed quick to proclaim the movie a possible Oscar contender -- Lee immediately walked on stage and told the audience: "It's unfinished! When you see the movie, it will be a lot more moving."
In an interview after the screening, the "Brokeback Mountain" filmmaker said being compared to directors like James Cameron and George Lucas -- two directors who appeared along with Lee in a promo reel screened at the event -- made him uncomfortable.
"To be honest with you, I like to be modest," the 57-year-old said. "I would like people to get surprised about my work, instead of it being over-hyped. That's what I'd be more comfortable with. But it's a big picture. I have to go with the flow."
Lee said it was the performance of young Indian actor Suraj Sharma, chosen from more than 3,000 hopefuls, that ultimately inspired him to move forward with the technically challenging production -- even though Sharma couldn't swim when he was first cast.
"I met him, I tested him, and he held his breath for 20 seconds. So I got him a swimming coach, work-out coach -- every coach," the filmmaker said with a laugh. "He gives an emotional performance in a movie that has the look of a family film, but it's also a movie about big ideas. I hope people will spend weeks talking about it -- that's my idea of a family film."
---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.