Oh, it's THAT book, izzit? ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Monday, March 1, 2010

Oh, it's THAT book, izzit?

The Book of Eli
My rating:

Watch movies as often as I do, and you're bound to experience a few cases of Projector Fail. During my viewing of The Book of Eli, the top half of the screen was out of focus. I had just about resigned myself to watching the whole movie like this, but fifteen minutes in the fine staff of TGV Kepong stepped in to fix the problem. Which really was great of them - I was fully expecting them to just ignore it - but it did mean stopping the movie for a couple of minutes. I'm mentioning all this because these distractions may possibly have affected my opinion of this film.

Because I thought it was pretty blah.

Thirty years after a war reduced the world to a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a lone wanderer named Eli (Denzel Washington) heads west carrying a valuable book in his possession. He stops at a town ruled by the despotic Carnegie (Gary Oldman) along with his right-hand man Redridge (Ray Stevenson). Carnegie is also looking for a book that he believes will spread his rule to even more towns - the same book that Eli is carrying. But even as Carnegie prepares to hunt him down, Eli gains a follower in Solara (Mila Kunis), the daughter of Carnegie's mistress Claudia (Jennifer Beals).

There's no reviewing this movie without mentioning it, so here it is - Eli's book is the Bible. And that's my biggest problem with this movie. Call me a godless heathen, but I just can't buy it. First of all, the purported reason why Eli's Bible is so valuable is that it's the last remaining one in existence. This is a book that's in the bedside drawer in every room of every hotel in the United States, yes? We find out that in the immediate aftermath of the apocalypse, people went on a specific Bible-burning crusade and destroyed every copy they could find, because it was religion that started the global nuclear war in the first place. Which is interesting... but then again, why is it that a mere thirty years later, no one even remembers the existence of the Bible?

And then Carnegie wants it because he believes the power of its words will help spread his influence. Again, no, not buying it. He's old enough to remember the pre-apocalypse world, so what makes him think the Bible - the book that preaches brotherly love and turning the other cheek - could become, in his own words, a "weapon"? And if he's so hung up on the power of religion to control others, why doesn't he just invent his own? We've all heard of Scientology, yes? And we've all read sci-fi and fantasy novels featuring fictional religions, some of whom are explicitly corrupt and false. Again, all of this would've been more believable if it were set, say, 100 years after the fall.

So be forewarned: how well you enjoy this movie depends almost entirely on whether you can swallow its central premise. It may even help the film's many contrivances and implausibilities go down easier - and man, the third act is just full of 'em. There's a fairly WTF-worthy late-stage plot twist, and that's not even the only thing you're asked to suspend your disbelief for. It really feels like the screenplay could've used a lot more punching up - what was filmed feels like a first draft. Even the performances feel rote; Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman have played "stoic badass" and "frothing villain" before, and bring nothing new to the roles.
Mila Kunis is super-hawt, but she always seems to be reaching for more depth and emotion than her character actually has.

It's too bad, because some of it is pretty decent. It's an action movie, but a stylish, moody one, and that's something you don't see often. Its post-apocalyptic world is gorgeously dusty and decayed, emphasized by directors Albert and Allen Hughes' decision to shoot it in a desaturated, almost black-and-white look. The action scenes are pretty neat, and there's one gunfight that employs some cool CGI-assisted camerawork. But the overall impression is one of style over substance - too little thought put into the plot, the themes, and the basic premise. It works best as a fitfully enjoyable (and not very smart) action movie, nothing more.

NEXT REVIEW: Hot Summer Days
Expectations: Barbie, Vivian, Michelle, *droooool


gwailo said...

where the heck is tgv kepong? tgv is bad enough, but in kepong?

TMBF said...

In Jusco Kepong, on the roof. It's the closest cinema to where I live laa.

Ajami Hashim said...

niyang rapik plsss :)

TMBF said...

Soon, soon. :)