Usually, when I hit Leicester Square I’m striding across, head down, aiming for somewhere else – somewhere quieter, with no flashing lights and one fewer Burger King. But this Monday night, Leicester Square was my destination for the UK premiere of Life of Pi.
There was a blue carpet (well, this is a movie set mostly at sea). There were burning braziers (that’ll be the Indian influence). And there was director Ang Lee with a very overwhelmed leading man, Suraj Sharma, the eponymous Pi.
As Ang Lee took the stage to introduce Life of Pi, which he called ‘the hardest movie [he] ever made,’ the audience fiddled with their 3D glasses – glasses which would allow them to view the movie with the added dimension that Lee said was crucial to making the movie a success.
The Oscar-winning director wasn’t at all sure Martel’s novel could be turned into a movie at all, he confided in the audience some of whom laughed knowingly, until the prospect of 3D made him wonder, ‘Maybe we can take a leap of faith.’
Martel, and Lee in turn, are keen for you to think about faith as you’re absorbing this story, whether as movie or book – Pi is Catholic, Muslim and Hindu – the gods are his ‘superheroes’, he says. But having faith in a good story is key to this too, and those keen for a neat ending and clear answers might need to call on their own faith to decide what it all means.
Faith aside, seeing is believing, and visually this is a beautiful film. Think sweeping blue seas lit up by jellyfish, a snarling, curling pouncing tiger you’re likely to fall in love with and 3D touches as real as the nose on your face.
This is virtual reality though and real life is best left in the foyer with the stale popcorn; at least for me, this was not a story to make me ‘believe in God’ as we are promised early on.
Maybe for you it’ll be different, but it’s going to take a little more than a CGI tiger for me to take my own leap of faith.
Life of Pi is in cinemas on 20 December
Watch the trailer for Life of Pi here