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September 26, 2016

“Book of Eli” a sci-fi cliché

These days it has become increasingly difficult to make science fiction movies that sell. This is especially true of do-or-die, post-apocalyptic plotlines featuring a bitter future, or the end of the world as we know it, and the rare feat of human kind simply surviving. Think of “Children of Men,” which provides a pessimistic, almost angry view of human psychology during a worldwide crisis, or “I Am Legend,” which features a similarly dismal storyline where little or none of humanity remains as a result of a mass epidemic.

“The Book of Eli” combines most or all of these elements weaved seamlessly into an action film that is both predictable and unexpected at the same time. Directors Albert and Allen Hughes fight through the torrent of expectations defined by a constantly changing modern audience to bring us a classic action story with an alarmingly avant-garde atmosphere.

The film is dominated by a dark and arid post-apocalyptic landscape, a new-age soundtrack arranged by up-and-coming British electronic musician Atticus Ross, and a plot themed around a battle between good and evil with a single artifact at its center (also known as a MacGuffin).  Eli, played by Denzel Washington is the solitary survivor of the Great War that ended all of civilization; he has been walking alone for 30 years, against all odds and obstacles.

The film centers on the final part of his travels as he meets unknown survivors and fights a corrupt mayor named Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman. He undertakes these heroic adventures alongside a new found friend named Solara, played by Mila Kunis, to protect a single book and complete a task related to that book.

The actors try their hardest to portray the most realistic attitudes and mannerisms they can, which is especially difficult to do in a film based completely on fictional scenarios. Denzel Washington’s reputation precedes him in this film as he plays up his cold, tough and solitary side as a lone wanderer. Mila Kunis, mostly known for her roles on “That 70s Show” and “Family Guy,” gives a good performance as the scared but tough girl you wouldn’t want to mess with. In the film, her attitude and spunk shine through, fitting her role perfectly.

“The Book of Eli” makes use of carefully-crafted realism to bring about an accurate display of a dystopian future, particularly with respect to the acting and the makeup. These two components also contribute to the R rating.

The action spots are riddled with graphic depictions of dismemberment and death, refusing to censor the truth about survival: kill or be killed. The raw, savage depiction of human survival provides an almost funny look at a post-apocalyptic existence. One of the best examples involves an elderly couple who survive by setting traps and keeping a cache of weapons hidden under their living room sofa, and yet they still have the politeness to offer tea to any guest who isn’t trying to kill them.

The most apparent flaw of “The Book of Eli” is that the book happens to be the Holy Bible.  The main objection to the use of the Bible in a Hollywood movie is that Hollywood already uses religion too much in their movies. “The Chronicles of Narnia” series already uses religion as the theme for its good and evil plot, where the lion represents Jesus and all the other characters represent  other important figures in Christianity. Both of Dan Brown’s works, “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons,” are filled to the brim with religious affiliations. And let’s not forget “The Passion of the Christ,” which doesn’t need much explanation. Directors Allen and Albert Hughes simply make use of an age-old theme without shedding any kind of new insight.

It may be most useful to viewers to simply try to forget the Biblical references all together in order to better enjoy the film. The movie is in fact very well done and nicely directed as it blends generic and inventive story-telling characteristics. Yes, the religious aspect does take away a little bit from the movie going experience; but if one imagines the book as something shrouded in mystery or an unknown relic of historic importance, one can enjoy the movie for its pure cinematic value.

Manish Garg can be reached at mgarg@student.umass.edu.

Comments
3 Responses to ““Book of Eli” a sci-fi cliché”
  1. Jazz says:

    @ “It may be most useful to viewers to simply try to forget the Biblical references all together in order to better enjoy the film.” Spoken like a true Atheist. Why would you want to forget about that fact? If you want an action movie it be best to go see something else, others went to see it for an all the aspects not to leave out the BIBLE at all. One of the points of the movie was that the word of God says that “we should hide the word in our hearts” and he did so, it was brilliant how we found out that he was blind in the end, because hiding the word in your heart meant all the difference when the bible needed to be reprinted. The word of God also says” The race isn’t given to the swift or the strong, but to those who endure until the end” which gives us hope to keep fighting keep pushing no matter what it looks like, which the movie also depicted. It was help and entertainment. Why take the bible references away?

  2. Jon says:

    Why the hell would you want to remove the religious element?

    Denzel singlehandedly elevates the “Wandering badass who quotes religious scripture right before killing massive numbers of dudes” trope to a new height.

    Wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if he was carrying around the last copy of the periodic table or a collection of Ed Cutting’s screeds.

  3. Eion says:

    The Bible is the book in question? *Yawn

    It is cop-out pure and simple. It would have been better to have the book be something like The Wizard of Oz or something. At least than you can actually ponder the meanings that we, as human beings, thrust upon literary works. It would have made for a more interesting film.

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