My wife is an avid scrapbooker and when she gets together with her friends, I take that opportunity to go see movie that she wouldn't like such as anything sci-fi, fantasy, war or otherwise interesting to a gamer. So this weekend she had a scrapbook get-together and I headed down to the local theater to watch The Book of Eli.
Let me start off by saying, I love anything post-apocalyptic! Movies, TV shows, books, games, audio books...anything that involves the world ending in a big flash and surviving afterward, I'm in! So having said that, I had high hopes for this one. I had been looking forward to it since I saw the first trailers a few weeks ago, so when I found out I had some free time I jumped at the chance to go eat over-priced food substitute and leave my shoes stuck to a soda covered floor.
So I get to the theater, get my pretzel bits (with cheese, thank you) and way more soda that one person needs (but it was only a quarter more so how could I pass up a deal like that?) and get a good seat. I was fairly early so there weren't too many people inside yet, but by the time the lights dimmed it was a pretty good sized crowd. After 32 previews and 7 commercials for things totally not relating to movies, the feature presentation begins with a good opening scene that sets the mood pretty well. The visuals in this movie are really outstanding. It's very bleak and washed out looking and everything seems damaged and overly used like you would expect things to be 30 years after a nuclear war. I hate when post-apocalyptic (hence forth known as PA) movies just have a bunch of people in layers of mismatched clothing that picked up at Target the night before. It just doesn't seem lived in.
So anyways, the movie progresses along well enough and you get a couple of set up scenes to show how our main character, Eli, survives in the world he lives in and what a bad-ass he can be when pressed. From what I read, Denzel Washington did most of his own fighting stunts and he did them pretty well for someone with limited training. It was certainly believable.
Soon after he wanders into a ramshackle town of survivors and we are introduced to our main antagonist played by Gary Oldman, one of my favorites. There are more confrontations and the story progresses until the twist ending but I don't want to give any too much of the movie in case some of you haven't seen it yet. Suffice to say that I thought the movie was "just ok". I was a little disappointed in the overall product that they presented. The overall story was good in theory, but I think it suffered from lazy storytelling. When you get to the twist ending you're forced to look back at the rest of the movie and see how many clues you missed that would have given it away, and there are tons of them but then there are quite a few that don't jive at all and that kind of ruins it. You can't help (at least I can't cuz that's how I roll!) asking yourself "How did he do that if this is the twist?" and that quickly takes you out of the mood.
There were a couple of other problems such as Mila Kunis, Eli's companion for most of the movie looking like she just walked off the set of a PA-themed magazine photo shoot. While everyone is in ripped, torn clothing and their lips and skin is cracked and dried from the sun, she is in what looks like skin-tight designer jeans and her hair and skin are perfect. In fact, she looks like shes the only one that's had a bath in weeks. As you can see in the costumes presented here. Denzel looks like he's been through the ringer and Mila looks like she's been through the makeup and wardrobe trailers.
There were a couple of other minor quibbles I had with the movie but nothing that hasn't been a mistake in dozens of other movies so I won't bother to mention them. Overall, I thought the movie was good but not as good as I was hoping it would be. It had the potential to be a thought provoking drama about survival and faith in a PA world, but somewhere along the line it forgot about that and became a PA western. I wouldn't have been surprised to see people riding horses and wearing cowboy hats.
I watched The Road a couple of weeks ago and felt that was a much better PA movie. Not as much action as The Book of Eli and certainly more depressing than Eli, but better storytelling.
In closing, if you like PA stories I would recommend it but go to the matinee.