UnbELIevable

If you’ve been to movies recently, you’ve probably seen the trailers for the upcoming film “Book of Eli,” where Denzel Washington plays a kung-fu monk walking across the post-apocalyptic wasteland with a copy of the Bible that Gary Oldman’s character wants to use as a weapon…somehow.

I was actually optimistic about the movie when I saw trailers that played coy about what the book was. I mean, a plot that focuses on a book as some kind of all-important weapon-thing is totally primed to be a preachy “Bible is Awesome!” message, which also makes it a perfect twist to have the book be something–anything!–else. I suppose it’s a better setup for a “Twilight Zone” episode than a movie, really, but all that focus on a book that some revere and others want to use for evil would be great fodder for a twist where the book turned out to be “Utopia” or “The Republic” or the U.S. Constitution or the Collected Works of Shakespeare or a book by Galen or Hippocrates or Pasteur or Salk or Gray’s “Anatomy” or any number of books that would be worthy of such focus thanks to their utility–and would do what post-apocalyptic stories are meant to do: comment on modern society.

Instead, the filmmakers have apparently taken a route that makes almost no sense, by playing the whole thing straight with the Bible. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I were struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, I’d be much more interested in “Survivalism for Dummies.”

All this would be somewhat forgivable if the filmmakers were trying to present some sincere message on the nature of society or faith or religion or humanity or something, but apparently they haven’t put that much thought into it. Seriously, take a look at this hilarious, enlightening interview with the directors. It’s a thing of beauty. Some highlights:

Q: I’m just curious. For you, why was it more important to have a character carrying a book with a message of spirituality, versus a message of “This is how you purify water?”

Albert: I would say it’s the same thing nowadays. Why is it important that people are holding that book in such high regard, or thinking that it should be spoken from, or told to others as opposed to building a church talking about irrigation? You can pose that question to anybody in any time period, post-apocalypse or now, about any religious text, or any text of any sort. “Oh, it’s more important to survive. We need food. So why not build churches about survival and food?”

You shouldn’t have to explain anything — poetry, art on the wall, a movie, whatever it is. You shouldn’t have to explain yourself. But here I am, being a hypocrite.

Q: I read an interview with you guys in Maxim, where it mentioned that a lot of audience members might think that this is Mad Max meets The Passion of Christ, and that that is a wrong assumption to make. Why?

Allen: Yeah I don’t think that [describes] the movie at all. I don’t believe you can even make comparisons. First of all, Passion of the Christ is an anomaly, it’s a one all. That will never happen again. That was a situation that no one ever would have foresaw. I don’t think you can compare any movie to that movie. Whether you loved it or it wasn’t your cup of tea. As far as Mad Max, I prefer Road Warrior. Our movie has a bit of Road Warrior in it.

And my personal favorite:

Q: If religion didn’t help the people of Eli’s fictional past, why do you guys as filmmakers think it will help their future?

Albert: You have some very deep, profound psychological questions there! You’re applying logic to something that there is no logic in. That’s part of my struggle. If you apply logic to a faith based religion — any of them — it will slowly start to fall apart. If you apply logic to Star Wars or Lord of The Rings, it will slowly start to fall apart. But if you go into it as a movie experience, as entertainment, [as] a mythology, and you don’t look for the holes, and you go and believe then that’s a different experience.

It’s not often that you see a filmmaker outright stating that the movie falls apart if you examine the plot with logic. I have to hand it to interviewer Meredith Woerner for asking all the right questions–with follow-ups, even!–and getting the most laughably inept, inane, and incomprehensible answers from the directors. Go read the whole thing; it’s a gold mine.

As to “Book of Eli,” I’m actually looking forward to seeing it even more, but I’m now fully expecting it to be a Schmovie.

Crossposted at Movies Schmovies.

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3 Responses to UnbELIevable

  1. Akusai says:

    I was also looking forward to the flick because I love postapocalyptic stuff and I like when Denzel kicks asses. Then the Bible thing reared its head. Honestly, that's just lame. I think it would be far more interesting if the book was a MacGuffin used to illustrate humanity's odd fascination with perceived easy fixes and/or the nature or superstition. The Bible is too obvious and too, well, retarted. It's like King's version of The Shining vs. Kubrick's; Kubrick played with ambiguity and bizarre psychological tension and horror, while to the lame original author, an evil hotel was somehow a better idea. That said, Ebert and The Onion AV Club gave it decent reviews, and I generally trust them. Generally. Ebert did give The Passion four stars, after all.

  2. Akusai says:

    Oh, also, I'm waiting for Schmovies post on New Moon.

  3. Wikinite says:

    Then it sounds like it was everything I was afraid it would be. So is the point of the book being important that it provides "morals" for the sinful masses to follow? I was kind of hoping that the point was that people give the book an inordinate amount of undeserved credibility and thus sets up anyone possessing it that same undeserved influence. How else would one use it as a weapon?

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