I recently watched the movie and got a couple questions about it, but I'm not sure if it's on-topic.
Should I ask the questions on movie.SE only? Does it depend on the questions?


3 Answers 3


It is clearly considered on-topic by our community-established guidelines

Guideline #1 is "If it's marketed as SF, it's on-topic." The Life of Pi was marketed as "the next Avatar," and was compared to Hugo. (It's also worth noting that Wikipedia calls the novel fantasy and the film won a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film.)

Since the possibility of being fantastical is essential to the theme of the work, the film also fits Guideline #2 (if magic, futuristic science or technology, alternate history, or other sf-nal concept is an important part of the overall plot, it's on-topic).

Even if none of these were true or admissible, Guideline #3 (if the question is specifically about an sf-nal element, even if it's only a minor part of the work, it's on-topic) means that questions specifically about the film's fantastic elements would still be on-topic. (As an aside, I suspect that questions about other aspects of the film, like production or marketing, would be better answered over at movies.se regardless of whether they're also on topic here.)

Fantasy elements and themes in the film

I haven't seen the film, but the whole point of the novel is that a truly fantastical story may or may not be true. It's not overtly fantastical, but it is not something that could just be filed away as non-fantasy fiction.

I believe the phrase is magic realism: "On the surface the story has no clear magical attributes and everything is conveyed in a real setting [...]" but this "highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe."

The central premise that a tiger chose to not only not eat but actively assist a young boy while they were isolated and starving is relatively fantastic in itself, but other elements--like the nocturnally carnivorous island clearly mentioned in the wiki summary--are more obvious fantasy fare, in line with the events of an H.G. Wells outing, or a novel of Professor Challenger or Doctor Doolittle.

As for the story's implication that its fantastical elements are merely a hallucination--it doesn't matter. This site has a proud tradition of treating possibly-hallucination-based fantasies as on-topic: , , and so forth. By that criterion, isn't on-topic either: "But ultimately the entire series takes place in the mind of a lunatic locked up somewhere in Los Angeles, if that’s what the viewer wants."

  • 1
    Is there a difference between "something being a fantasy" and "something being fantasy"?
    – bitmask
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 15:53
  • 1
    @bitmask Strictly speaking, yes, and "fantastical" means something entirely different. But so far as I know, this site has never actually been able to sit down and define its own terms in a way satisfying to the majority of its citizenry, so I'm just gathering data: the film is considered enough of a fantasy work to win awards in that category, and it's got non-realistic elements in common with other pieces accepted as on-topic by this site.
    – BESW
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 15:57
  • I'm asking because of your title, which I find misleading. I think you meant to say "It is clearly considered fantasy by critics and the public.", right?
    – bitmask
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 15:58
  • @bitmask Fair enough, and if I think of something else to change I'll edit it--a two-symbol edit is generally frowned on, and this comment thread will serve to explicate until then.
    – BESW
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 16:02
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    It doesn't contain any fantastical elements, so how could it be fantasy? What the public thinks is not necessarily relevant for this site and I think that calling this fantasy would be a very bad precedent. I would -2 or even more if the system let me. Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 17:56
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    @Donald.McLean Guideline #1: If it's marketed as SF, it's on-topic.
    – user56
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 19:03
  • @Gilles Thanks! I've included the link in my answer.
    – BESW
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 3:08
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    Very good answer, thank you very much. However, since the questions I have are not focused on the fantasy aspect of the story, I think asking them on movies.SE would be more appropriate (according to your reasoning, which I approve).
    – Kalissar
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 7:37
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    I think guideline #1 is silly. Marketing people are paid to lie about products for the sole purpose of increasing sales. For example, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Family_Trade was originally marketed as fantasy (and it is clearly alternate history SF). Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 14:14

I don't think I would consider Life of Pi to be Sci-Fi or Fantasy.

It's heavily implied at the end that the story was mostly made up, and nothing that was made up was very fitting for the 'Fantasy' Genre.

On the other hand, we have a precedent set by this question about Bridge to Terebithia

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    (Putting aside the weird notion that making stuff up is the nature of the site's subject material, but making up a story about someone telling a made-up story somehow doesn't count.) Doesn't that qualification make Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Never-Ending Story, Winnie the Pooh (books AND at least the first Disney film) and the 2006 film The Fall off-topic, too? Oh, and whatever other Disney films are bracketed by a big storybook--Sleeping Beauty comes immediately to mind.
    – BESW
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 10:14
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    @BESW - I think the point Pureferret was making was that whatever was made up wasn't really fantasy or science fiction. E.g. if someone made up a story about a girl who got poisoned by her evil stepmother (sans dwarves or witchcraft), it would be fiction, but not SFF Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 11:52
  • @DVK If so, that's very unclear in the answer.
    – BESW
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 11:57
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    @BESW The Wizard of Oz (1939 film) wasn't clear whether or not it was made up (although in the books it's pretty clear that Oz was real). The Neverending Story tied itself to the "real" world at the end, so it wasn't in-story imagined, either. The others I've either not read/seen or it's been too long to remember. With Life of Pi, on the other hand, the plot summary seems to imply that the SFF elements are entirely made-up by the end of the book/movie, so I think I agree with Pureferret. (I've not read Terebithia, though)
    – Izkata
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 4:38

My understanding (from the Wiki plot and the trailer, NOT watching the movie) is that none of the events in it are fantasy/fantastical. No talking animals, etc... There was a hallucination of mentally connecting with another survivor, but my understanding is that it's implied to be a hallucination even within the fictional story.

Therefore it is no more SFF than "Blue Lagoon" or "Cast away" - it's a fictional adventure story, but not fantasy or science fiction.

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    From the wiki summary: "the fresh water pools turn acidic and digest the dead fish in the pools. Pi discovers that the island itself is carnivorous after finding a human tooth embedded in a flower."
    – BESW
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 12:30

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