I wanted to see a film. Spur of the moment. No planning. At the cinema I was faced with the problem that the film I wanted to see wasn't on, so I was left staring at the board thinking "Iron Man 2 is going to be rubbish". I decided to see The Book of Eli, based on the premise that no amount of stupidity would make me regret seeing a film full of post-apocalyptic vistas. I chose... poorly.
It was entirely suitable on the bombed out visuals front. For some variety, it was a spectacular array of brown, to differentiate it from Terminator: Salvation, which went for a spectacular array of grey. Ruins, rubble and wreckage, realised in a fashion the makers of Mad Max would have chewed their arms off for. For a moment, the music at the start put me in mind of the game Fallout. This was all very promising.
Unfortunately, The Book of Eli then degenerated into a pile of horse shit, since - as I guessed without knowing anything about the film - the literal book in question is a bible (the metaphorical book is probably an unseen extra bit of the bible detailing the events of the film). No clever defying of expectations there, despite the twists that could have been used. Another book in a bible cover would have been a start. Having the reason for trekking a bible across the continent in the first place being specifically because it's going to be abused if anyone gets their hands on it (the villain wants to restart Christianity because he sees it as a means of social control), that would have been a good touch instead of someone setting out on an undefined pilgrimage and later having this purpose pop up like a convenient solution to the age-old question, "where is the conflict in this script?". There's no end of ways they could have twisted this premise up a little to make it more interesting. The final twist - that it's a Braille bible - was obvious by the time the villain had recovered the book, leaving the final part of the movie to be a waste of time. Why not have a copy of the damn thing on the battered media player Eli carried around? Why not make it a useful book?
What really got me though, beyond the whole "post apocalyptic western as religious parable" (which was teeth-grittingly annoying by this point) was that the main character was blind.
This was outrageously silly. I can only just walk across the room without my glasses. This blind man somehow knew the freeway he was walking along had collapsed? How? Oh no, not "god protected him" - that's bullshit. He can clearly see on several occasions. Eli shoots a cat at the start using a bow, while wearing a gas mask. He certainly could see that hand he lopped off before it touched him a second time. How the hell does someone who can't see properly fight a group of thugs when one is armed with a chainsaw? Chainsaws are loud. Louder than anything else going on in that scene. Loud enough to make Blind Ninja Skills (super hearing and super smell in this film) useless. Maybe he's supposed to have gone blind after being shot and lying out in the sun? No, because the blindness twist turned out to have been signposted with things like Eli being unable to read the sign on the cannibals' property. He could read "low battery" on his trusty MP3 player, though. Maybe he's partly blind. No, wait... maybe it's just a badly thought out film.
It's this that makes the movie hard to sit through. Willing suspension of disbelief gives up and goes home in a huff rather than put up with the onslaught. There are reams of paper lying around the library on Alcatraz: Paper is made from vegetable matter. Where is it coming from? Why doesn't it ever rain? Why didn't the people in the town eat that cat? What else have they been eating? Does it really take 30 years to walk across the United States of America? Okay... Maybe if you're blind (Plucky Young Girl asks him if he's been walking in circles, yet another signpost).
Lots more marks come off for working in as many scenes of rape, attempted rape, or references to women being raped as possible. Yes, it is the lawless future. Yes, a lot of men would behave like that if they could. But personally I'm tired of this aspect of media set in the broken wasteland of a burned out world. Hey, the lawless future could also be a lawless future where women chop rapist scum up. It's the year 2010, films can be like that. Why not? Because it's a film about how with no religion there are no morals, that's why not.
No, really. The villain even implies that everything will be nicer if he just gets his hands on a bible. This is a line intended in-universe to convince Eli to hand the book over, but it's also there to put that thought to the audience too. The deep and heavy thing here is that the audience is supposed to work out the idea that religion is bad when bad people have it - but you know what? I don't care. Lack of religion causing moral decay is an all-too common point from the "atheism is bad" crowd. Thanks, Book of Eli, for making their point for them via images of rape, murder and cannibalism. I'm sure they don't get enough chances to air their views.