Legions of fish soaring over the ocean surface, a majestic whale bathed in emerald light as it caresses the night sky, and armadas of meerkats assembled upon an uninhabited island are among the spectacles young Piscine “Pi” Patel (newcomer Suraj Sharma) encounters after being shipwrecked in Life of Pi.
The domestic trailer opens with the harrowing events that leave Pi stranded on a small sea vessel – with naught but the glistening-eyed tiger Richard Parker for company – before it transitions into the hard-to-believe aspects of his incredible story of survival.
Life of Pi is based on the best-selling novel from Yann Martel, with Oscar-nominee David Magee (Finding Neverland) adapting and Oscar-winner Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) directing. Tobey Maguire was originally set to play Martel in the cinematic take on the author’s book, but reports emerged earlier this month that the Spider-Man actor was recast in accordance with Lee’s wishes for the film to feature a completely international cast. Maguire was replaced with English thesp Rafe Spall, who played the now-infamous biologist from Prometheus.
Spall as “The Writer” opens the international trailer for Life of Pi, as he speaks with an older Pi – played by Irrfan Khan (The Amazing Spider-Man) – hoping to hear what he has been promised is “an amazing tale.” Once the latter obliges, the trailer transitions into a familiar montage of stunning visuals and moments that unfold as a collection of moving digital paintings.
Innumerable effects artists and digital compositors are responsible for realizing these native 3D images on the big screen, while director of photography Claudio Miranda (TRON: Legacy) collaborated with Lee on putting these various shots together. The eye candy, however, doesn’t exist for the sake of itself. Rather, it is a reflection of Pi’s unusual outlook, as someone who sees our modern world as a place where spirituality and scientific thought are not at odds with one another.
Lee’s approach with Life of Pi sets it apart from upcoming films striving for a heightened sense of realism – such as Tom Hooper’ Les Misérables musical – as well as those attempting to make the fantastical CGI seem tangible, in the case of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. So long as you keep in mind the scenery in Lee’s film favors expressiveness over realism, the viewing experience should be quite enjoyable.
The cast is rounded out by Oscar-nominee Gérard Depardieu (Cyrano de Bergerac) as well as Bollywood actress Tabu, Adil Hussain, Shravanthi Sainath, Ayush Tandon and Vibish Sivakumar.
Look for Life of Pi when it opens in theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday frame on November 21st.