Saturday, February 13, 2010

Movie Review: The Book of Eli

Link in the title.

I wish this movie had been about a half hour shorter - getting tired of bloated, padded films with scenes that make no sense in the narrative, or have me dozing.

Oh - a brief synopsis would probably be helpful, wouldn't it? Ok, here we go.

We meet our hero, Eli in a forest using a human corpse as bait to catch a hairless cat. He's wearing a gas mask and using a recurve bow. (that info is important to this rant.)

The world as we know it has ended, and we find Eli on a journey 'West' - to bring the last existing bible somewhere, with only his Ipod for company. (yeah, I started giggling about there.)

As spoiler-free as possible:

Denzel Washington is Eli, a devout bible reader and NINJA!! It seems implied that he has divine protection, as he fights off hordes effortlessly, bullets either miss by miles or magically hit him and do no least for a while. Ummm, yeah...

Gary Oldman takes up the reins left by Tina Turner, as the villainous overlord of a post apocalyptic shanty town. (Alas, there is no Thunderdome.) Oldman is the educated type of villain, as it seems he is the only survivor of the 'Flash' who can read.

Or think, but we'll get to that later.

In order to spread his biker gang of world domination, Carnegie (Oldman) is seeking a particular, special book to control the minds of the masses - because the location of the only clean water supply in the area just isn't enough. So, he sends out illiterate punks to look for it (a point so nonsensical, it's even mentioned IN the movie). Apparently, Oprah's magazine and the Da Vinci Code just won't do...

The plot synopsis mentions the book that will 'save all mankind', so you kinda know where this is heading.

Fair enough. I'm not anti-Christian - I'm not really anti any religeous group, really. Were the story handled elegantly, I'd be cheering right along with it.

The problem with the biblical bits in this movie, is that they're so ham-handed it feels like the Hulk wrote this script by throwing a neverending line of tanks at a keyboard. But they're far from the only problem script wise - the committee of monkeys who wrote this thing never paused long enough in their poo slinging adventures to learn what a plot hole is.

They did watch a ton of other post apocalyptic movies though - taking every 'that's cool' from every film you can think of, and shoehorning the concepts in without rhyme or reason.

Visually, the film is nice. Nothing inspiring, but nice - shots, sfx, design (besides a few glaring bits). The fight scenes, choreographed by Dan Iosanto are stunning - more or less buyable, stylish, and engaging. This is the first movie where I've watched Gary Oldman, and found myself thinking: 'Less talking! More fighting!"

The performances themselves are all solid, if uninspiring. Even Washington and Oldman couldn't save this pap - but the actors themselves did the best they could have with the material given. And there are a couple of cool cameos - Tom Waits and Malcom McDowell appear.

While Eli doesn't reveal his name until about 20 minutes in, I didn't have a problem with that - being that his name is in the title of the movie and all.

There are some leaps in believability that just had me giggling right in the theater. One of Eli's weapons is a recurve bow. That's not the issue. I'm dying to know where he puts it when not using the thing - it magically appears in particular scenes, the string has no recoil, and it somehow fits into a small backpack when he doesn't need it. Would it have been that hard to see it on his person when not in use?

One of the more ham-handed moments had Eli saying grace over food with Solara (though he didn't appear to do it when alone, but that's a different issue). The next morning, Solara is somehow so moved by the words that she runs to tell them to her mother. Huh?

In a land of illiterate idiots, somehow only one book will do to control the masses. Really? I'm sure anyone who could gain this type of power could use any number of books to aid them - Grimm's Fairy Tales, for instance - anything with moral parables in it. Couldn't buy it.

I can't honestly remember any of the other bible conversations word for word - I was too busy laughing at them. I do recall that one slow moving conversation felt so overtly heavy handed that I said, out loud: 'this message has been brought to you by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints'. They really need a disclaimer on this film.

Another thing that was touched on initially well, went to crap in the costume department. Eli uses wet-naps as a form of currency at one point, and at another, a huge deal is made about a bottle of shampoo. Now this, I liked - desert situation, no water, no resources - these items would be at a premium.

The problem appears with the spotlessly clean and made-up Solara. Somehow, in this land of filth and dust, she magically has makeup, and shiny, bouncy hair. And while the rest of the cast is rather ragged, including the lead villain, her wardrobe walked right off a fashion magazine cover without a spot or tear to be found - even after traveling in the desert. Maybe God infused her clothes with magical fashion powers?

The other thing that drove me nuts was the misogyny. Every female character in this movie is either murdered, a rape victim, a prostitute, or some other subservient foil. Really? I know plenty of women who would not only be more likely to survive this situation than a dude, but you're telling me that in 30 years not one woman has figured out how to be anything but a convenient hole? C'mon. Not one knows how to use a knife, let alone a gun, or take care of themselves in any way - including those that were BORN into this world. Gimme a freakin' break. As if beating misquoted scripture into the heads of the viewing masses weren't enough, we're going to keep trying to spread this stereotype as well? Made me miss Conan's crew and Tina Turner yet again.

And remember, those were 1980's movies! Talk about taking a huge step back.

I did read some other commentary and reviews online. A few frightened me - those that claimed this piece of popcorn silliness was 'thought provoking' or 'made me think'. If THIS drivel induces thought, it really scares me to wonder how those individuals conduct their daily lives.

If you're watching with friends, the action is fun, and the dialogue is good for quite a few giggles, but see this one second run, or rent - it's really not worth the ten bucks.

No comments:

Post a Comment