Thursday, July 08, 2010

I've Got a Book For You... In My Pants!

The post apocalyptic landscape just got a little bit worse.  It's bad enough that when civilization is in ruins and the human race is hanging on by a thread  having to deal with bands of raiders, lack of clean water, and amateur cannibals, if and when they do find any physical media they might be forced to sit through some shitty movie like The Book of Eli.  Not only was the movie mired in mediocrity from the very first frame, but the "twist" ending just ruined the whole thing for me.  I mean it was just terrible, so terrible in fact that I'm going to have to go ahead and issue a SPOILER ALERT right here because I really need to vent about this shit.

Alright, the plot of The Book of Eli follows a dude named Eli (Denzel Washington) is on an epic thirty year quest through a blasted, post-apocalyptic world to protect a certain book and kick some ass.  Along the way he encounters various dangerous gangs and thugs trying to etch out a living and kill as many other people as they can, but none so dangerous or determined as Carnegie (Gary Oldman).  Eli rolls into Carnegie's settlement of ruffians to fill up on supplies (like a recharged iPod battery, essential for making it after the world ends) and runs afoul of the ruthless leader who it turns out is looking for a certain book that Eli happens to be carrying.  While attributing to the book an almost supernatural power to shape men's minds Carnegie is determined to possess it with or without Eli's consent.  Eli, of course, singlehandedly takes out a whole army of bad guys and proceeds on his quest to take the book West and is soon partnered up with the young and smoking hot Solara (Mila Kunis) who is on the run from the abusive Carnegie.  With Carnegie and his thugs in hot pursuit Eli and Solara must work together to make it past different post-apocalyptic thugs and even a couple of elderly cannibals in order to complete Eli's quest and deliver this much sought after book to a hopefully better home.

I'll start with the positive points, but don't worry that won't take too long.  The movie had a very cool look and I liked the too-bright, desert-like landscape.  I also liked how they didn't go into too much detail as to how the apocalypse happened other than to have Eli briefly mention something about bombs being dropped.  So we are to assume that there was some kind of nuclear war which has apparently damaged the atmosphere and if you look real close everybody in the movie wears shades outdoors to deal with potential overexposure to the sun.  This is just a little detail, but I think it added to the feel of the film and it wasn't blatantly addressed.  Of course the whole sunglasses thing is a part of one the shittiest surprise endings ever, but still.  Denzel I can take or leave, but when he wants to the man can act and he can definitely do action and there was nothing really wrong with his performance here.  Gary Oldman is one of my favourite actors and can do no wrong in my opinion.  He does a commendable job in The Book of Eli, but can only do so much with what he's given.  Mila Kunis was a pleasant surprise, because not only is she hot, but she was a total chameleon in this role.  I have so come to associate her with her characters on That 70's Show and Family Guy that I was totally shocked to see her in a dramatic/action movie with a much less annoying voice.  I had no idea.  I hope she gets some more varied roles because I get the feeling we haven't seen the extent of her talent yet.

OK so I started watching The Book of Eli with an open mind, even though a buddy of mine had already told me the nature of the book that Eli was carrying, which I suppose was supposed to be a secret until the end.  It established pretty quickly the badassery of the title character, the inherent dangers of traveling through a barren wasteland, and the motivation of the antagonist.  About halfway through the movie, however, things started to sour for me.  Even if I hadn't been told it was becoming pretty clear that the book he was carrying was the bible.  I mean this would have been OK, but then Eli goes into this whole story about how a voice told him where the book was and then told him to head west and that he would not be stopped.  "Oh, OK," you might think, "this guy is obviously off his fucking rocker."  Then comes the ending which then completely ruins any hope the movie might have had. 

OK, so Gary Oldman finally gets the book, makes the classic bad guy moving of shooting Eli, but not killing him with a double tap to the skull which he could easily have done, and Eli makes it to the coast where he and Solara take a boat out to Alcatraz because apparently San Francisco is the last safe haven of civilization in the continental US.  There they discover a garrison of soldiers led by Malcolm McDowell in a bad hairpiece (at least I hope it was a hairpiece) who have nothing better to do than collect books which is somehow part of their plan to rebuild civilization. (Step 1: Gather Books.  Step 2: ???????  Step 3: Rebuild Civilization?  Fuck off).  When they arrive Denzel declares in his most masculine voice "I am in possession of a King James bible!" or some such shit which gets him access to the fortified island.  Then they sit down and the "copy" he has is actually (wait for it) inside himself, for he has read the bible so many times that he has indeed memorized every word.  During the recitation montage there is one ineffective shot where Denzel takes off his glasses and the camera zooms in on his eyes which are clouded over and looking in slightly different directions."No, it can't be," you think to yourself "if he's blind that would be a worse 'twist' than having Darth Vader build C-3P0 and would completely ruin the movie."  You'd be right on both counts.

There are two main reasons why the blind Eli twist ending is complete bullshit.  The first is because it almost completely negates all of Eli's badassery throughout the entire film.  This is because there is absolutely no way that a blind man could have done all the things that Eli did.  I'm not saying the whole blind warrior concept can't work.  I mean there's the tradition of the blind swordsman Zatoichi, the blind mentor Master Po, the blind prophet Tiresias (it's Greek mythology you uneducated bastard) and of course blind superhero Daredevil.  I'm saying it didn't work in The Book of Eli because it stretched my willing suspension of disbelief past the point of breaking because of the previously established tone and rules the movie had previously established for its fictional world.  It simply didn't fit with the supposed realistic feel of the film.  There are scenes where Eli is singlehandedly taking on scores of bad dudes with both his machete and a gun.  The machete I could have bought if it was one or two guys and his moves didn't seem so polished or deliberate or if he took a hit or two.  But he busts out the moves with no hesitation and the lethality of a ninja on steroids.  It's too fucking much.  What really got me though was this supposedly blind man's sharpshooting which was even more unbelievable than Lee Harvey Oswald's impossible shooting.  Not only is this guy sharpshooting well-hidden snipers from ranges of what looked like at least 50 metres with a handgun held in one hand while he was running down the street.  I mean that would be tough enough for John McLane or a T-800 to accomplish but a blind man who has to be at least fifty years old.  I'm sorry that's just too much even with all the little hints of his other heightened senses.  Slightly more believable blind shooting scenes were presented in Once Upon a Time in Mexico where Johnny Depp's character has his eyes removed and is only able to locate a target to shoot if they make a sound.  And even then he has uzi's to give a wide spray of bullets and the tone which the movie had established allowed this kind of over-the-top character to plausibly exist in that universe.

The second reason the blind twist ruined the movie for me because the movie basically degenerates into pro-Christian propaganda.  First off, why did the book have to be the bible?  I mean the dudes at the end were looking for all sorts of historical texts.  Why not a collection of Shakespeare's works?  Why not some other significant work like The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Rings, Frankenstein, Beowulf, Beyond Good and Evil,or The Dialogues of Plato?  Or another religious text like the Torah or the Koran?  And why imbue the bible with such mystical power?  Carnegie, the main bad guy, is looking for this text because it seemingly has the magical power to control men's minds, like it was the One Ring or some shit.  I mean even if the words were so powerful, you couldn't remember one single fucking phrase?  I mean even the most secular, vegan atheist knows the old "Do unto others" routine.  Instead of wasting time searching for this one piece of literature why not simply write your own text, and then while you're at it teach people to read and write.  Organize, get fresh water, build affordable housing or distract and confuse the people with a highly publicized "war on terror".  I mean, the guy was already in control of a whole city.  He should have focused on expanding, setting up colonies and and banging hot chicks to provide heirs to his throne.  And then the only thing that Eli can pass on from the olden times is the ritual of praying before dinner.  I mean is this the sum total of Western culture?

I could have been a contender...

Also are we to believe that the voice that spoke to Eli is supposed to be the voice of The Almighty himself?  That the reason that out of the thousands of bullets that were fired at him throughout the movie only one actually hit him, and then just barely wounded was because God was watching over him?  And was God the one who was guiding Eli's hand as he brutally killed, maimed or scarred anyone who got in his way?  So much for "Do unto others."  As much as I hate getting preached at during the course of a presumabley secular movie, I hate getting preached at this shittily.  Any time in the biblical narrative that God wanted to save someone never once did he send them a giant machete and say unto them "Go hence and chopeth ye motherfucker's hand off."  So even as Christian propaganda it's hypocritical.  I have only one word for the fiasco: bullshit.

Alright I'm done with this shit, thinking about it again only makes me angrier.  For turning what could have been a cool twist on the post-apocalyptic genre into a two-hour joke I give The Book Of Eli a 4/10 = One Blind, Bullet-Dodging Warrior's Head With Admittedly Pretty Cool Shades.


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