The Book of Eli: The Road for Dummies

If George W. Bush has left one legacy to the arts, it's that under his administration more films about the Apocalypse and ecological destruction went into production than under any other presidency.

The latest to be released is the Hughes Brothers' The Book of Eli. Consider this tepid offering "Cormac McCarthy Lite."

Like McCarthy's Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Road (and its recent first-rate screen adaptation), The Book of Eli takes place after civilization's been decimated.

Of the few survivors, a huge percentage have become rapists and cannibals. What's worse is that these remnants of mankind are also smelly. Apparently without access to commercials for Colgate and Dial soap, hygiene has gone the way of the dodo.

Additionally, both offerings share a religious core. In The Road, a father is trying to get his son, a possible Christ figure, to a warmer environment. In The Book of Eli, the taciturn Christ figure with a mission, Eli (Denzel Washington), is trying to transport the last surviving copy of the Bible to what's left of San Francisco.

Hey, what happened to all the other copies? Glad you asked. All the millions upon millions of Bibles that have been published throughout the ages have been destroyed, apparently because these tomes have been blamed for the rack and ruin of humanity. The Lord's Prayer has been judged calamitous.

Well, with that premise and an opening slower-paced than molasses in January, we get to see Eli kill a hairless cat with an arrow for dinner; ambulate past hundreds of skeleton-filled, burnt-out autos; and then finally clean his genitals with a KFC towelette, which brings up the question: Who at KFC approved this product placement? Now every time we pass one of these fast-food eateries, we're going to think of reeking testicles. That's an appetite whetter.

Anyway, a very nasty man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman) wants to get his hands on Eli's Bible so he can use the Word to rule a dystopia of his own making. Uh-oh!

Poor Carnegie! He doesn't realize that Eli is a soldier of God, who with his mean sword and a few bullets, can wipe out armies of meanies. If you don't believe me, just you watch Eli cut off a hand or disjoint a head or shoot someone in the crotch.

Along for the blood-soaked ride is a pair of very bad actresses: Jennifer Beals as Carnegie's blind mistress and Mila Kunis as her bartending daughter. If two performances ever could cause you to question the existence of God, these would be the two.

Yet with stunning cinematography by Don Burgess (Forrest Gump), breathtaking production design by Gae Buckley (He's Just Not That Into You), and state-of-the-art visual effects by Jon Farhat (The Mask), you at times almost forget how humorless, repugnant, and unnecessary this whole product is.

Only near the finale, with the appearance of two top-notch thespians, Michael Gambon and Frances De la Tour, as George and Martha, aging, lovable, man-eating survivalists, does the film really come alive in a totally enjoyable manner.

This is, however, a case of "too little, too late" unless quickly edited dismemberment, misogyny, and commercialized spirituality, all enacted to an annoying score composed by Atticus Ross, is your cup of tea. If so, drink up. - Brandon Judell brandon.jpg

Mr. Judell is featured in Rosa von Praunheim's forthcoming documentary New York Memories. In the spring, he'll be teaching "The Image of the Jew in Post-World War II European Cinema" and "Gay and Lesbian Literature" at The City College of New York. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi).

Just Stop Wasting Your Time Doing Articles

Im just looking for somewhere to rant here over all the low "Critic" reviews about Eli, and yes i do hate 90% of critics, especially ones that are growing grey hair (harsh i know but the arrogance is astounding) expecting films to be like the 1950's cause thats how old majority of critics are nowadays.

Im an atheist, the one that doesn't believe in god but believes in a higher power (bible is a misinterpreted story). Saying this i really enjoyed the religous input in this film, possibly as i like the idea of certain religous things, i just don't believe in them.

Not at one point in this film did i wonder "mm when is this thing gonna end" that i do with quite a few films even if i'm enjoying it. I was quite sad to see the film end, and it left me thinking, that was a nice movie and well worth paying my money to support it. That however i cannot say about all films, Aliens vs Predator cough, i wanted my money back after that horrible excuse for a film.

Anyway, don't listen to any of these nab arrogant pensioner critics looking for attention, and go see the movie yourself, user ratings on all sites i've looked at are double the critics. It's all about your own opinion, and in my opinion these sort of critics (e.g. above) shouldn't have one.

Watched it, thought it sucked

Watched it, thought it sucked dick.


people are calling this movie bad because it has some science fiction in it... and a blind man walking around the world... but they give movies like avatar, narnia, star wars etc. etc.... awesome reviews but because the bible is not directly alluded to they are awesome and this is terrible... gg atheists gg

Avatar's story also sucked...

Incidentally, I gave Avatar a horrible review for being internally inconsistent, a horrible and confused portrayal of humanity and human action, and generally making no sense as a story. The Book of Eli, which I saw last night was on par for stories that make no sense and are completely contradictory, but it didn't even have the good taste of "looking" good, as Avatar did.

Star Wars & Narnia are Fantasy stories, not science fiction - and thus the rules are a little different. For one thing, magic exists in both of those worlds, so suspending disbelief is a different consideration. If George Lucas tells me that in his universe a man can move objects with his mind and use the force to see the future, I accept it in the same way I accept that when Harry Potter waves his wand around, he can shoot an ethereal deer out into the world that runs down soul-sucking wraiths. However, The Book of Eli is set in the real, non-magical, Earth in a post-apocalyptic future so I don't suspend disbelief on things like that.

A big problem with The Book of Eli is that here we have a world which we're told to believe has been a barren wasteland for 30 years, after bombs killed most of the human population. Yet people are living out there with almost no water, no farm or food of any kind, and instead of making any efforts to produce the things they might need to survive (as real people who live in harsh climates like deserts & tundras do) they just try to kill each other, rape each other and go to a saloon. What? Worse still, this world - with no refinery, and no other resources to speak of - apparently has an unlimited supply of bullets, guns and functional cars & motorcycles. Well guess what, if I had an internal combustion engine and gas to run the damn thing I'd take it from the car immediately, hook it up to a pump and bring up all the water from the well I could and use it to increase production of food, clothing, shelter and all the other things real people need. And if someone was trying to prevent that from happening, I would think it wouldn't be too hard to fix. Carnegie's character makes no sense (unless he's just purely insane), and the behavior of people... and even the world itself was full of holes.

That's the problem. Good Sci-Fi exists... This ain't it.

Please Check Your Spelling Before Adding Comments...

I enjoy the comments and discourse, but please check your grammar before posting comments. Thanks. D

Densil (Denzel), spagetty (spaghetti), admitadly (admittedly), wistleing (whistling), etc.

best comment on Eli comes from The Road

although Eli is not the worst film in its genre, without Densil it might have been. defenately on par with the last terminator. I enjoyed Gary Oldmans sidekick wistleing spagetty western tunes.admitadly, had I not seen The Road the night before i might have been able to expect less.
however it was the script of the road, which i refuse to believe was coincidence, that best sumarised the book of Eli.
"whats wrong with Eli"
"dont hold his hand"

you are soo clueless

hahah you are seriously a fucking idiot. your two reasons for not liking this movie was the fact that he used a KFC towlette to clean his balls and the fact he has the last bible. okay, it'sa movie asshole? you gotta try to believe some stuff.

Believing other stuff... dudes walking on water and raising from the dead? Everyone believes some wacky things, pal.

P.S. I am not the reviewer, just someone who suffered through this film and couldn't agree with him more.

Thank you for your heartfelt response, but . . .

please look up the meaning of "irony."

By the way, I do not find it unbelievable that all of the copies of the Bible were destroyed except Eli's. In fact, the reason they were all destroyed is one of the few clever moments in a rather bankrupt screenplay.

As for Mila Kunis's performance turning me into an atheist, odder occurrences have sadly taken place in this peculiar world of ours.

Book of Eli

I have to completely disagree with you on almost every level. I don't see why it is so unbelievable that all the copies of the Bible have been exterminated, nor should that impair your movie experience. Don't you kind of have to buy into some stories a little bit to get into him. The Bible issue sounds ridiculous but you're okay with the idea of an apocalypse? Also, just because Eli says it's the last copy, does that make it so? Do you think he's spoken to every single survivor in the world?
And most of the remaining people are rapists and maneaters? We did see, what? Two of the hundreds of people in the movie in an attempted rape scene? We do know of, what? A handful of people that we knew for a fact turned to cannibalism? And, really, the performance of two of the actresses made you question the existence of god? That is the most unnecessary comment that I have possibly ever read in a movie review. I just wanna type it again. Made you question the existence of God. Wow.
These opinions you formed also seem to be under the assumption that what we see in the movie is similar to what's going on everywhere else in the world.
That seems like an awful idea and I couldn't disagree with you more about the shortcomings of this movie. Thanks, and have a great day, JTB

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