And Then There Was One: The Book of Eli

Two posts in one day. Must be a holiday or something.

I enjoy watching movies but I hardly ever go to the theater any more. Seriously, I don’t see the point of spending $10 to watch a movie when I can buy the DVD for the same price a few months later.

This evening The Book of Eli came on HBO and I decided to watch it since it was free. Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman are two actors whose work I enjoy so I expected the movie to be decent. It was.

The Book of Eli is set in a post apocalyptic world. 30 years have passed since war broke out and civilization was destroyed by, what we are led to assume, an exchange of nuclear bombs. The movie follows the basic hero’s journey plotline. We meet Eli, a lone wanderer, as he is hunting for food in the woods. But soon it becomes clear that he is not walking around the U.S. for fun and hijinks. He is on a mission.

As expected, he gets into a few scuffles along the way which draws the attention of Carnegie. He is a corrupt town leader who wants to expand his meager empire and is looking for a specific book he believes will help him do that. I’ll save you the suspense because you’ll know almost immediately anyway. He’s looking for the bible.

Carnegie finds out that Eli has the last remaining bible on Earth. Apparently, people blamed the bible for the war that broke out which is not surprising. In retaliation, people hunted down and destroyed all of the bibles except for one. The last bible came into Eli’s possession because, in keeping with the religious theme, he heard a voice that led him to it and tasked him with taking it to a safe place.

In addition to attracting the attention of the power hungry antagonist, Eli unwillingly acquires a sidekick in the form of Solara, played by Mila Kunis.

The movie makes no attempt to hide its religious theme. Eli frequently quotes scripture and the bible is held up as an important book that will give humanity the hope they need to rebuild from the ashes of destruction. I feel, though, that the movie had a much greater point to it than that.

As an atheist, I generally don’t go around defending the bible. In fact, when I realized that Eli had the last remaining bible in the world, I was hoping that somehow it would get lost or destroyed in some freak accident in the movie (it doesn’t). But in this case, I will make an exception because I want to make a point about something that often gets lost in bible thumping/bible stomping debates that atheists and theists engage in.

No matter what people say about the bible, at the end of the day it’s just a book of stories. The book, in and of itself, is neutral. Where the problems arise, and what the movie illustrates perfectly, is that the book can be used for good or evil depending on the intentions of the person holding it. Eli wanted to get the book to a place where he believed it would give people hope. Carnegie, on the other hand, wanted to use the book to control people for his own personal gain.

But the bible is not the only thing that is used to abuse and control others. It’s just the most recognizable. There are plenty of other tools and ideologies out there that attempt to do the same thing with varying degrees of success. These days I find myself being annoyed by vegetarians and vegans who claim I’m evil because I eat meat.

“They are living creatures,” they shout as they gobble down a salad that came from…a living entity, plants. They stage protests and throw paint on people wearing fur all the while committing the same “crimes” against nature that they accuse meat eaters of doing. Just because you can’t hear plants scream as you are ripping them out of the ground or cutting them down doesn’t mean they feel no pain.

Even worse are raw foodists who have declared a war on cooking. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Anyway…where was I? Oh yeah, the bible, a vegetarian diet, paint; these are all tools that can help or harm depending on how they are used. This, I think, is the actual message of The Book of Eli.

Overall, I found the movie to be formulaic although the cinematography was decent. Denzel Washington did very well with his character as did Mila Kunis. Gary Oldman was a little campy but I enjoyed his performance nonetheless. There was a subplot that they could have pursued which I think would have made the film more interesting but they didn’t go there. Although there is a moment at the end when you are genuinely surprised the movie was fairly standard cinema fare.

Have you seen The Book of Eli? What was your impression of it?