By David Tindell
In an era of apocalyptic fear, we are certainly in no shortage of end-of-the-world movies (think “2012,” “I Am Legend,” “Children of Men”). So, how does it all end? Well, after watching “The Book of Eli”, it must end one bad movie at a time.
On Jan. 15, Albert and Allen Hughes (“Menace II Society” and “From Hell”) released what they were hoping would be their biggest blockbuster to date. Written by first-time screenwriter Gary Whitta, “Book of Eli” stars Gary Oldman (“Batman Begins”), Mila Kunis (“That 70’s Show”) and everyone’s favorite actor, Denzel Washington.
The Hughes brothers place the audience in a not-too-distant future where a religious war has caused world-wide destruction. There is no law, no society and cannibal road gangs run rampant. One man, Eli (Washington), has been given a mission from “a voice inside him” to take a book west to a worthy city in order to rebuild civilization.
Just from this brief synopsis, you can grasp the epic nature of “The Book of Eli.” However, while it is grand in scale, the movie lacks a certain depth in emotion. Even with the world in utter chaos, the movie still makes time for laughs. The humor helps pace the movie, but does undermine the plausibility of “Eli’s” apocalyptic plight.
Watching Denzel Washington fight with a sword and bow is a welcome change from his usual gun slinging, but creates a certain silliness to “Eli’s” violence that makes the movie hard to take seriously. For instance, the beginning scene shows Eli shooting a cat with a bow. I understand that Eli kills to survive, but the “eating cat” jokes throughout the movie were a bit absurd.
Religion is an interesting theme in “Eli” but is not implemented well. The religious overtones set “Eli” apart from other apocalypse movies, but go too far. Being forced to listen to Bible quote after Bible quote is about as entertaining as a GOP rally. While I have no problem with a film using Bible quotes to enhance drama (“Pulp Fiction” executed this extremely well), the way “Eli” depicts the Christian book feels like Pat Robertson agenda.
The entire movie feels like Washington’s attempt to be Will Smith and the Hughes brothers’ attempt to be James Cameron. Neither Washington nor the Hughes brothers are known for blockbusters, so this kind of script seems out of place for both. That’s not to say neither can reach blockbuster status; only that “Book of Eli” certainly does not achieve this goal. Whether you are a fan of Denzel or the Hughs brothers, “Book of Eli” is a bummer.