Monday, August 2, 2010

Denzel at Armageddon: Book of Eli Review

...and this guy didn't make
a cameo why?
Oddly enough (or perhaps not), humanity seems to be obsessed with its own demise. The post-apocalyptic genre seems to be all the rage in the media these days. In the movie circuit, the most recent and notable entry was The Road based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. The video game business has been focused primarily on the Fallout series. Armageddon-loving seems to have even hit children’s literature since books such as The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games have grown in popularity. In the year 2010, this trend appears to be holding strong as The Book of Eli has been released.

Neither particularly impressive or lackluster, this film is a solid, if not particularly prominent, new addition to this continual craze. In this story, Denzel Washington plays Eli, a man who’s heading out West in order to locate someone who will help him reprint his copy of the King James Version of the Bible. A vague disaster known as “the Flash,” presumably a war, disease, nuclear explosion, or some combination of the three, has occurred and has apparently destroyed every other copy of the Holy Book in existence. One has to wonder why writer Gary Whitta decided to make this his central plot device, unless he honestly believed that his audience was going to buy, without question, the premise that the single most printed written work in history now rests on the brink of extinction. But skepticism aside the concept in itself is, if not believable, at least
somewhat interesting.

Besides, The Book of Eli is one of those films which, although somewhat lacking in substance, makes up in visual style. The photography is eerily beautiful, and at times the visuals and the scenery are more engaging than the characters who are acting in front of them. Also making a valiant attempt at stealing the show is the fight scenes. Washington as Eli, while ostensibly the pious and peaceful monk type, is not afraid to lay down the law and knock around a few heads . . . literally. Packing enough weapons to supply a small army, Eli shoots, blasts, kicks, cuts, chops, hacks, thwacks, and decapitates his way through anything that attempts to impede on his holy quest. In fact, in not one, but two scenes the titular character dispatches an entire group of angry combatants by himself with nothing but a machete. It’s surprisingly stunning stuff, in a brutal and violent sort of way. Props should definitely be given to martial art expert Jeff Imada for choreographing the various jaw-dropping battles that pop up throughout the film.

Unfortunately, not everything in The Book of Eli is quite as exciting. On his travels Eli runs across a man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who happens to be searching for the Bible for himself. However, unlike Eli, he has the intention of capturing and then exploiting it for his own personal gain rather than selflessly enriching the world with it. Once again, this whole Bible concept must be questioned. The Bible certainly does have the capability to influence large amounts of people, but this film treats it as some sort of super weapon capable of magically brain washing everyone that it comes in contact with and turning them into a horde of drooling ultra-fundamentalist Evangelicals (I smell a Michael Bay film).

But anyways, back to Carnegie. Rather than coming across as a huge threat, a commanding force carrying all the cards and resources with which to halt the protagonist’s journey, this character is merely a hammy sleazebag. As a result, when Eli ends up being chased around by this dorky bookworm, it can’t be taken too seriously. Still, at least Carnegie isn’t as bad as his former lackey, Solara. As played by Mila Kunis, Solara’s only two reasons for joining up halfway through the film as Eli’s sidekick appear to be in order to ask revealing questions and to annoy both Eli and the viewers alike. In every scene she appears in, Solara looks out of place. It seems she belongs not in gritty, post-apocalyptic world of The Book of Eli, but rather on the cover of a glossy magazine or strutting about in a shopping mall.

But the Hughes Brothers can be forgiven for letting the feeble pair of Carnegie and Solara enter their project. Coordinating an action adventure flick with religious undertones in a manner that manages to be both entertaining and non-preachy, while still thought-provoking and challenging, is no small undertaking. This directing duo seem to have accomplished this rare feat, at least to a certain extent. The Book of Eli is decent, but if one were to choose not to see it, it really wouldn't be the end of the world.

Official YAMB Grade: Neutral

Nate S Grade:

Story: B-

Characters: C+

Acting: C+

Aesthetics: B+

Overall Grade: B-

"You Sack of Wine!"
-Nate S

1 comment:

  1. Swell review. it seems as though it could somewhat be set up for a sequel, considering the ending of the film.


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