Having been robbed by Los Hermanos Weinstein of the opportunity of seeing perhaps the most eagerly awaited movie of my lifetime (or at least since The Phantom Menace -- yeah, I know know...) when they opted to release The Road, the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, in a limited number of non-Southwest Georgian theaters, I made certain to see The Book of Eli this weekend.
Critics and Christians alike have attacked the movie. Entertainment Weekly's film critic Owen Gleiberman panned it, but he is also the guy who he gained notoriety for his review of "The Apple Dumpling Gang" (1975), in an article entitled "Dumplings of Justice" wherein he praised the eponymous "gang" as a "proto-typical revolutionary People's movement opposing the forces of crypto-fascist capitalism as represented by Don Knotts." Some fundamentalist nitpickers have complained that the Bible was shelved next to the Quran, but they really should take their beef up with the Library of Congress which traditionally has mandated shelving both books in the B section which is designated for "Philosphy. Psychology. Religion."
Me, I like the movie on a religious level. I, for one, was happy to see a movie in which the hero was a kneeling-to-pray, Bible-reading Christian. Debbie at Christianity Today's review of the film pointed out the film's religious cromulence: The Book of Eli shows that "God calls ordinary people to monumental tasks, and He enables them to complete the job. In this movie, Eli was God's man for carrying His Word into a new age. At one point in the movie, you get a glimpse inside his backpack, and there's a nametag pinned at the back. It reads, "Hello, My name is Eli." It was a K-Mart employee name badge. Why was he qualified? Because God called him to the task. If God is calling you to do something beyond yourself, trust Him." One of my favorite scenes of the film was the one in which Eli (Denzel Washington) demonstrates for Solara (Mila Kunis) the lost art of saying Grace. It reminded me of the importance of the act and to address my own neglect of it.
I also liked the film on a geek level. There was plenty of action, but it wasn't the Matrix/John Woo fromage that is the staple in Hollywood these days. The fights looked real. Eli actually unstrings his bow after using it (or at least he gets Solara to do it). I appreciated the Hughes brothers' homage to a classic post-apoc film by hanging an A Boy and His Dog one-sheet on the wall of Carnegie's guest room. The landscape was straight out of Fallout 3. There was a cameo by President John Henry Eden. The only thing missing was Vault Boy (how cool would have been to see one on a shelf in Tom Waits' store?).
As a lifelong bookworm, I really loved the emphasis the film placed on the importance of reading. I think the ALA needs to take one of the images of Eli reading in the film and turn it into one of their "READ" posters.
In short, I'll take The Book of Eli over Colonial Marines vs. Smurfs any day.
Chris Weston and The Book of Eli (Storyboarding, etc.)