Most potterheads would tell you that if you are a true Harry Potter fan, you will always argue that the books are better than the movies. To be considered a true “potterhead”, you should feel that every tiny detail left out of the Warner Brothers movies is an insult to J.K. Rowling herself. While I loved reading the Harry Potter series, and believe that J.K. Rowling made me a reader from a very young age, I don’t consider myself a true Harry Potter fan by these standards.
The art of taking a book and bringing it to the big screen is a lot harder than I think people realize. Although you do get the advantage of having the plot already decided for you, the balance between keeping the fan base happy and making it an interesting movie that isn’t over 3 hours is a hard balance to maintain.
With the book, The Life of Pi, you certainly don’t have the same number of crazed fans demanding you stay true to every word written by author Yann Martel. However, every time a screenwriter kidnaps a novel, they have to make sure that the storyline is interesting enough to watch on a Friday night.
In a story about a boy who is stranded on a boat with a tiger, the issue of keeping an audience engaged is definitely a question that I’m sure came up in the preliminary stages of the movie. If this boy has no one to talk to, how are we going to keep the viewer’s attention?
I think screenwriter David Magee did an excellent job tackling this problem. The summer going into my sophomore year of high school, I read Yann Martel’s novel for summer reading. It could have been because it was homework over the summer, or because I was an immature, short-attention-spanned 14-year-old, but I remember hating this book. The 200-something pages of this boy’s survival in the ocean seemed much less interesting to me than my trampoline outside. I read it as quickly as I could, highlighted good quotes as proof that I read it, and didn’t touch the book again until the first day of school.
Two and a half years later, my mom begs me to see the movie in theaters. Well, “begs” probably isn’t the right word. It isn’t all that hard for anyone to convince me to watch a movie. So, despite my distaste for the novel, I got my ticket, bought my popcorn, and sat in the black, musky theater.
It was good. Really good. Sitting in the theater, I remember being surprised by how good it actually was. Maybe it was because of my low expectations, but I walked out of that movie theater, unable to stop telling my mom how good it was (even, to her dismay, while we were waiting in the line for the bathroom and then sitting in the stalls). But I couldn’t help it. This movie completely surprised me.
To be honest, I don’t know what I expected. Maybe I expected to be as bored watching it as I did reading it. But everything from the special effects to the acting to the set grabbed me and pulled me into Pi’s tragic story. It’s hard to point to one specific moment where Magee made this story interesting to watch. But if I had to, I would really commend the actors, but particularly Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan, on making an unbelievable story a little more believable.
To some of you, I probably sound like a 12-year-old twihard raving about Stephenie Meyer’s latest vampire book (although I hope I don’t sound like that). I know that pretending to be a movie critic means that I should be CRITICAL, but I was simply swept away by this whole cinematic experience. Could I work for Rotten Tomatoes? Probably not. But should you still go see this movie? Definitely.
MOVIES WATCHED: 19
SCREENPLAY PAGES WRITTEN: 44
NOVEL PAGES WRITTEN: 73