The Book of Eli, a new twist on the Apocalypse

Post-Apocalyptic films don’t really interest me. Believe it or not, I have not seen any of the Mad Max movies in their entirety despite being loco (at least, for a time) over Mel Gibson. But if I’m a fan of Mel Gibson, I’m a bigger fan of Denzel Washington although his films that I like best (John Q and Man on Fire) are not ones for which he won awards. And on the strength of being a Denzel Washington fan, I watched The Book of Eli with an open mind.

The Book of Eli takes place some 30 years after the Apocalypse. Signs of destruction and decay are everywhere. The land is dry and barren. The opening scene shows a man hunting for food. Eli (Washington) is traveling on foot to the western coast of the United States. He carries a thick leather-bound book which he reads regularly. Most of the initial scenes are testaments to his uncanny survival skills — hunting, fighting, killing and, especially, his ability to “smell” the presence of threat.

Eli arrives at a town where the boss (in the tradition of a mayor with a private army) Carnegie (Gary Oldman) lives with a blind woman, Claudia (Jennifer Beals — yes, of Flashdance fame) and her daughter, Solara. Carnegie is obsessed with finding a book which, he has heard, is a source of great power. Sent by Carnegie to seduce and spy on Eli, Solara discovers him reading a book with a cross on the cover.

So, at this point, the religious theme of the film becomes evident. You start surmising whether the book is a copy of the Bible and you wonder about its legendary power that Carnegie talks about. It is also around this time when you hear fresh theories about the Apocalypse when Carnegie mentions stories that it was that very book that led to the Apocalyptic war.

A fresh approach, no doubt. Although, throughout history, religion has been the cause of war, destruction and loss of millions of lives, that religion would actually lead to the Apocalypse — at least, in the context of the Book of Revelations in the Bible — is something new.

The freshness of the perspective makes the film interesting especially when combined with bits of trivia that are both amusing and frightening. That water would be a valuable commodity in a post-Apocalyptic state is a common enough theme. But wet tissues — and with the KFC logo at that? In Eli’s time, money has ceased to be in use and people bartered with things like wet tissues. Amusing as well is Eli’s possession of an iPod which he takes pains to make sure got regularly charged.

Apart from these, you have to be a huge believer in miracles to swallow the rest of the plot.

Eli leaves town to continue his mission to travel westward. Solara sneaks out after him. On the road, she learns that Eli has been walking westward for 30 years to deliver the book based on instructions from a voice inside his head — a mission based on faith and nothing else.

Meanwhile, Carnegie and his henchmen run after them in a convoy. A shootout and a lot of explosions follow and, to breeze through the testosterone part, Carnegie gets the book and Eli is shot at close range in the torso and falls to the ground.

Solara is stuffed into a vehicle and the convoy heads back to town when Solara strikes back and commandeers a vehicle. She goes back for Eli but finds him gone. Driving on, she finds him walking on the side of the road — with the bullet in his torso. Told you, you have to believe in miracles to swallow the rest of the movie.

Solara and Eli arrive at the West coast which is green with vegetation. The West, it seems, is governed by authorities ensconced at the Alcatraz (don’t know whether or not that was funny) where there is a collection of books that survived the war. Eli’s mission ends with his delivery of the only surviving copy of the King James Bible. Oh, but didn’t Carnegie get the book after the shootout? Sure, he did. But Eli had memorized the entire Bible and he recites it so it could be reprinted.

The scene shifts and Carnegie finally gets a lock picker to open the book. It is useless to him though because it is in Braille and Claudia refuses to read it to him.

So, there. Eli is blind which sort of explains his finely-honed sense of smell and hearing. It kinda explains what makes him such a skilled fighter but, from another perspective, his being blind makes everything he has done in earlier scenes even more incredible. And so you go and shift to the faith perspective once again — otherwise, nothing makes sense.

I didn’t hate The Book of Eli. Though I didn’t like it either. It was a strange experience watching a weird story unfold. Not weird in a philosophical sense or with philosophical undertones (like The Matrix) which can really be mind stimulating. No, The Book of Eli is just plain weird and you get the feeling that some religious (Christian, in fact) agendum is being forced on you and you’re not supposed to know it’s being done.

Comments

  1. says

    If that’s the case, I’d just wait for it to be available at our local video rental shop.

    Have you seen “The Taking of Pelham 123″? Denzel Washington’s pairing with John Travolta brings back the glory of action films with real drama before CGI-drenched action flicks we have today.

  2. says

    Pinayhekmi, LOL at least I did giggle over the KFC wet tissue scenes.

    Jhay, yes, we saw Pelham 123 with the girls. I found it ok but it felt “bitin.” Still, compared to The Book of Eli, Pelham 123 would be considered fantastic hehehe

  3. says

    My husband’s reaction was: Ngek, ano kaya yun?!

    We are both big fans of Denzel but we just didn’t like this one. It was really just a waste of time.

  4. Twin-Skies says

    Tita Connie, if your PC specs will allow it, may I suggest the game “Fallout 3″?

    It’s a game set in a post-apocalyptic world, and you play as a resident of one of several vaults that had been constructed prior to the nuclear wars that devastated the world.

    It’s an interesting (and deeply immersive) game that has plenty of satirical references to the Cold War era sentiments. The bad news is that you’ll at least need 2 GB of RAM, a 2.0 Ghz processor, and a decent video card to make the game work on a PC T_T.

    In short, rather than watch a film about a post-apocalyptic world, why not just play a game that lets you move around freely in one?

  5. uberdoog says

    Time for me to load up on DVDs.

    Re: Man on Fire – the movie was so different from the book. Like the Curious Case of Benjamin Button and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The movie versions were made audience friendly.

  6. Jett Rink says

    But isn’t it better that any agenda (religous or otherwise) be subtly or sneakily delivered rather than thru an all-out barrage or thru preachiness. :-)

  7. says

    None of these movies coming out of Hollywood interest me anymore, no matter who’s acting in them. I prefer unknowns and old classics like The Planet of the Apes. Which is becoming more subtly real by the day in our time. ;-)

  8. d0d0ng says

    All apocalyptic predictions are religious in origin. From the Mayan (world to end next year, 2012) to Armaggedon of St John’s revelation.

    I am definitely interested on St Malachi prediction on the reign of popes since we are down to the last 2, the end of Roman Catholic church. Today, Pope Benedict 16 is 83 years old.

  9. Webbie says

    I actually liked this movie because it shows a good Christian message. Eli was like a “Christian superhero”. In his journey, God was there for him all the time. It also shows how some people may use the words of God just to manipulate people. I must say the movie was not realistic enough but overall I am giving this movie 2 thumbs up!

  10. kathleen says

    I was able to watch this movie at the bus on my way home. I first I didn’t really paid attention to it because the first minutes of the movie was violent. But later on I began to watch it, and was curious when I had a clue that the Bible had something to do with the story. It was already at the part where Carnegie and his goons try to shoot Eli when he refused to give them the book when it is time for me to get off the bus (too bad haha). I really got interested with the plot of the story so as soon as I got home, I surfed the internet to find information about the film. And this is where it got me.

    Reading your blog entry, I became more of a fan of the plot of the story. I don’t know but I liked it. I may have been spoiled by this review but I am still happy that I was able to know about the film. It refreshed my spiritual faith. :)

  11. angela says

    Good day! =D

    Actually, this is one of the best movies that I have seen. I am feeling weak at this point of time, but this movie reminded me of my real purpose and my source of strength each day.

    I do not like violent films, but there’s much more than action or mystery… Yes, I am amazed by Eli’s fighting skills, (I hope to learn some cool stuff from him :D) and by his wisdom, but more than that, by his faith.. Indeed, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” I am a Born-Again Christian but we do not consider it a religion. Actually, it is about having a personal relationship with God… It’s about making Him your personal Lord and Savior, and also your Teacher, Comforter, and Best Friend. Just like what we have seen in Eli’s life, he is not a “religious” person, but he knows the Voice that he hears, he engraves the Word in his heart, he talks to Him, and he applies His Word to his life – he applies the golden rule, walks by faith and not by sight, etc.

    God’s voice is calling out to all of us – so that we may know our own “mission” here on earth, but first of all, so that we may know Him and His Word. That is the Living Water! =)

    Also, this film reminds me to give thanks in everything, for everything… At this point, we may have more than what we truly need, but let us value the things that truly matter… like the validation of our souls. Let us fight a good fight… Let us run the race… Let us keep the faith! =)

  12. says

    I agree with you Angela. :)

    To those who think that the movie is biased on religion.. sorry to say but I think it’s not. It’s more of your faith in God, whatever religion you have.

    It’s a very great movie I would recommend. m/

    Janmck

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