Part way through The Book of Eli, a second random fight broke out. It was at this point where I realized just how silly the film was. I wasn’t particularly enjoying myself beforehand, but when a second random fight began, I really found myself laughing at the film; it just takes itself too seriously for its own good, I’m afraid, especially when you factor in everything that happens after this “pivotal” point in the film.
Taking place thirty years after an unexplained apocalypse, we meet a man named Eli. He is wandering west, and has been doing so for a long time. That is his mission; he wants to reach the west coast. That’s about all that matters in regards to his motivation throughout the film. Oh yeah, Eli (Denzel Washington) is also a very, very tough character.
Eli, despite being fairly old, malnourished and not seemingly all that capable of a fighter, is able to slaughter entire groups of people at one time in hand to hand combat. Actually, this isn’t even half of it, as he is also better with guns than everyone else in the film. It seems to be impossible to actually hit him with a bullet, or with a sword. All weapons seem to miss him or be blocked by his surprising speed and strength.
And here lies the first problem with The Book of Eli. Eli is not a character that we can relate with, nor is he particularly believable in his role. He appears to be in his mid-50’s, and yet is more agile than characters in their 30’s. He also doesn’t appear to have the supplies that would allow him to have this much energy, but somehow he can jump into battles whenever he feels the need.
Now, I’ll give the filmmakers credit, all of this is explained at the end of the film. It’s just a bit of a shame–actually, quite a large shame–that this final reveal feels like a cop-out. Maybe it was intended all along, and in fact, I’m sure it was, but it feels like it was thrown in last-minute, because the feeling was that telling the story as it was didn’t quite work out. So, they decided to throw in as many twists right at the end of the film just to make it more interesting.
What results is something that doesn’t quite work and almost feels like a cheap move in regards to the rest of the film. Up until the end, while the film doesn’t really feel like much is happening, we can at least admire Eli’s perseverance in not giving up. He is chased by lots of people throughout, eventually led by the main villain named Carnegie (Gary Oldman). He is determined, and we can at least see this in him.
And then, by the end, we find out why he was so determined. We learn fairly early on that he is carrying a book, one that is apparently really important to Carnegie, and to Eli. Only referred to as “the book” throughout the majority of the film, we don’t actually learn what it is, and why it is important until near the end.
In case you haven’t gathered yet, no, I am not a big fan of the way The Book of Eli ended. Nor was I really that big of a fan of what came before the ending, but at least they made perfect sense, and didn’t feel like a cheat. This cannot be said about the finale, which, like the book is called in the movie, will not be given away in this review.
I still can’t say that I would have enjoyed The Book of Eli even if the twists at the end hadn’t ruined it. The reason for this was that I wasn’t really having fun while watching it to begin with, as it was fairly boring. Despite the numerous action scenes–some of them seemingly having nothing to do with the rest of the film–I was bored. I didn’t care about Eli, and it didn’t, for the most part, feel like he could be harmed in any way, so I had trouble becoming invested in him and his story.
While I didn’t really care about Eli, or anyone else for that matter, I can say that the acting in the film was pretty good. Washington is great in his role, making Eli the badass that he needs to be. Oldman is really entertaining, even if his character is extremely derivative of many other post-apocalyptic villains.
I can’t recommend The Book of Eli, because, to me, it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Without giving away the twists at the end, (I haven’t yet), I can say that they turn the film from mediocre to bad. They did destroy the film for me, and they made me very upset after the film ended. While the acting was overall solid, the story and characters weren’t, not allowing me to become involved in the story.