Impressions: The Book of Eli

The book of Eli is pretty much exactly how you think it is going to be.  So, there isn’t a way I can really spoil it.  Just watch the previews and then fill in a few blanks.  Denzel Washington has a book and he is taking the book somewhere.  Bad people with big guns and rotten teeth want the book and Denzel Washington has the skills to cut off a few half-dozen heads in the time it takes for you to yell, “Damn!”  I mean, it is the Hughes Brothers.  Yeah, they did Menace to Society, but they also made Dead Presidents and that movie was re-Dunk-ulous.  So, the action and violence is there, but there is another thing that sneaks in.  A moral message, maybe?  An idea of the different concepts that keep society in check?  The politics of power dynamics?  What is the importance of books? Of words?  Is it the information inside these books, or the notion that these books do contain information and that the containment of information is possible, that the movement of information is our right, that the giving of information is what makes us human?  Is this movie talking about that?  Half way through the flick, I started to wonder if the movie had the answers, or was just hurling awesome images at me.  And, oh, Mila Kunis.  Yes, her too.  Spoilers ahead.  I’ll be completely ruining this movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

The thing about the Book of Eli is that you can pretty much completely understand the basic premise of it.  The world was subject to war.  The sky “opened up” and the sun burned everything and everybody, except those lucky enough to be stuck in a subway or something.   A lot of people died, the food all went gone, people started eating each other, etc.  We’ve seen all this, or read it before.  But the movie introduces something a bit different.  All Bibles, either after the war or before, were gathered and destroyed.  Except one.  And Eli has it.  A voice told him to, “Go West” with it and that is what he is doing, no matter who or what tries to stop him.

Did I mention that the Bible is in brill?

Did I also mention that Eli is blind?

Yep, that’s what I thought, too.  Of course, the movie doesn’t tell you any of that until the end of the movie, when Eli recites the Bible, word for word, so that it can be written down and copied for future generations.  So, once again, “Deus Ex Machina” is playing a crucial role in the fates of the hero in a piece of fiction.  And I think I know why, but that’s for later. Making Eli blind at the end of the movie is a very strange thing to do, and I’m not sure why they did it.  I mean, Eli is shooting people, and he is blind.  He is fighting ten guys at once and he’s blind.  I’m pretty sure the guy POINTS at something in the film.  It is like, blind?  Really? Maybe it is supposed to make the ending have more weight.  Maybe it is supposed to give us comfort, comfort that God is looking out for us, especially in times of our greatest need.  Or maybe it was just a cheap trick, just like Bruce Willis being a Ghost or the Matrix being a computer program.  Eh. Whatever.

I enjoyed it, though.  I enjoyed it immensely, and that’s because it was just a good flick.  Yeah, it was trying to be heavy handed and it didn’t really work, but the camera angles were solid, the directing was tight, watching Denzel Washington cut heads off is super fun, Gary Oldman is always the perfect villain and Mila Kunis is really hot. Give me two hours of all that and I’m as content as a cat with a ball of yarn, baby.

What I find fascinating is this surge of “faith based” Science Fiction that is working its way through the tubes lately. More and more, spirituality is a heavy role in these flicks.  Movies discussing the “Higher Powers” has always been around, but we’ve rarely seen so many movies where God is an active character, making sure that the hero does what needs doing for the greater good.  I don’t think it is a bad thing, really.  It is just intriguing what sparks creativity, what makes people spend hours and hours to slave over a movie, what sort of story they use to make their point, what they use to expose certain aspects of humanity.  I don’t think that The Book of Eli takes itself that seriously, and that muddles the message a bit in the end.  But, still, it is worth a good Sunday afternoon.