Monday, February 15, 2010

Review: The Book of Eli




I’m writing this soon after I watched the film in order to keep it fresh in my head. Therefore I’m probably more likely to say rude and thoughtless things.

So I want to first point out that there are not enough black main characters in movies like this. I mean this movie is at the end of the day a Post-Apocalypse science fiction film akin to the Mad Max series. Have you noticed in fantasy and sci-fi flicks you usually don’t have the lead played by a strong African-American? Sure it’s not unheard of but usually we’re either sidekicks or it’s a comedy tongue in cheek kind of film and Eddie Murphy is the one starring in it. Normally it’s a white guy running around saving the world, though sometimes it’s an Asian guy, and frankly it bums me out.Where ’s my hero? Where am I being represented? Really only Will Smith movies have this going on but I’ll share a secret with you: Will Smith is awful.

Wooo! Haha!

The Book of Eli stars Denzel Washington, who has proven that he can play a murdering badass without it looking out of place (See: Man on Fire), as the wandering hero "Eli". It also stars professional movie villain Gary Oldman as the boss of a town Denzel comes across. It also stars Mila Kunis which is normally a strong reason for me to stay away from a film but I’ve been a a lot more forgiving of her limited acting range ever since I learned of the talent black hole that is Megan Fox. Tom Waits is also in this movie playing the same role he played in Mystery Men, Domino, and Wristcutters: a grizzled and eccentric (Possibly magical) old man. That might be typecasting but whatever; why mess with success?

"Eli" in a rare moment of not killing white folk

The plot of this film revolves around Denzel wandering through the barren wasteland of a post apocalyptic United States carrying an important book and generally slaughtering anyone who gets in his way. He stumbles across a town that Gary Oldman evilly runs but as luck would have it the sinister fellow just happens to be searching for the very book Denzel is protecting. Therefore violence ensues as Oldman and his goons repeatedly attempt to relieve Washington of his possession. Along the way Mila Kunis just sort follows Denzel around for no real reason other than to almost get raped by bandits.

Of course the major theme in this plot is the importance of faith; something Washington’s character has in abundance and something Oldman’s character wants to use as a weapon. Which is fine. I can think of no more important scenario where having faith is important than after society implodes. The plot is not exactly the deepest thing ever written but it gets the job done and also delivers on a whole lot of shoot outs and sword fights. Did we really need them? Who cares? Cut his freaking head off! The world presented is also nothing we haven’t seen in other films before. No reinvention of the wheel here, folks. It’s a wasteland that is inhabited by cannibals, highwaymen and illiterate rapists and suffers from a shortage of water. Everyone wears sunglasses because it’s really sunny. And also takes place in the southwest.

Washington is pretty good in this film. He won’t win any Oscars for it but he does a solid job. His character doesn’t really require much: shoot some guys, cut some guys, say some prayers, be polite. Oldman does what he does best and pulls off another solid antagonist performance to add to his resume. Mila Kunis…well she’s not great. The girl needs to learn how to emote. She’s usually fine until she has to express something other than neutrality then it gets really insincere really fast. That’s all her performances though, not simply this one. It’s sort of tragic funny that she has share the screen with such well respected actors. Simply put she can’t keep up.

Just attractive enough to warrant being in movies

I liked the action scenes and I thought the plot was pretty decent, but there were some aspects that bothered me. Like for instance it’s stated that the movie takes place about thirty years after the world ends and yet somehow there’s still a decent supply of guns, ammo, cars and fuel. I understand that a lot of it was being hoarded by a warlord but c’mon! Thirty years is a long time to keep three or four cars on a full tank and in working condition. This happens a lot in these types of films. If we’re several decades past the Apocalypse I would like to hope we’ve mastered the use of a machete and not still trying to utilize useless guns. Also the ending bothered me. I won’t get into details but I felt that it dragged on way too long and that the big reveal at the end was sort of lame.

Wrong type of machete but still crazy awesome

That said this was a very enjoyable movie. It wasn’t too dumb and wasn’t overly pretentious. It had a good amount of action and an important lesson about faith that I happen to agree with. While it’s not close to perfect its well above the line of being entertaining.

I give this film 4 Adorable Pandas out of 5


Pros

-A Black Protagonist in a Science Fiction film

-Played by Denzel Washington and not Will Smith

-Gary Oldman delivers yet another solid villain performance

-Fun action and a decent plot

-Hey its Tom Waits!

Cons

-Mila Kunis needs acting lessons

-Unsatisfying ending

-Nothing new as far as this genre goes

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