As I watched the opening of “The Book of Eli” I had several thoughts running through my head; “How is Eli’s MP3 player still working after 30+ years?” “Why is there a rare species of hairless cat wandering in an ash-covered wasteland somewhere in eastern California?” and “What gave Eli all of those weird scars?” Alas, those early questions would not be the only ones to go completely unanswered.
“The Book of Eli” was a fairly typical post-apocalyptic story with the usual stoic, lone-wolf main character quietly slaughtering the degenerate leftovers of humanity while wandering the barren wasteland. Denzel Washington plays a man reminiscent of Mad Max or the Mariner from “Waterworld,” and by reminiscent I mean just short of interchangeable in this disappointingly unoriginal film.
Amidst the reoccurring shots of Eli walking alone on a highway with heat distortion rising from the asphalt and the reoccurring shots of Eli killing people groups of 5-15 people in self-defense we find Eli stopping in a small town run by a man named Carnegie, Gary Oldman, who dreams of building more towns as soon as he can find a certain book. In an unbelievably shocking twist, it just so happens to be the very book Eli carries with him wherever he goes and never tells anyone about as a result of the rampant paranoia he probably developed as a result of having to kill so many people in self-defense. After butchering an entire barroom full of people in self-defense, Eli is given a nice room and a hooker for the night in hopes that it will entice him to stay and work for Carnegie, who has no hard feelings about all of those people working for him that just died while Eli was defending himself . . . in self-defense.
The rest of the movie progresses in a similar fashion, but with the addition of Solaris, Mila Kunis, who is just like every other woman in this movie, in that she is borderline useless and only good for slowing Eli down and getting into trouble. She’s also dangerously similar to Helen from “Waterworld,” except that she doesn’t have an adorable little child and she doesn’t make things worse every time she tries to help.
Midway through, “The Book of Eli” takes a turn for the religious and begins a slow spiral down the drain of predictable plot twists and badly-needed explanations are shoved under the blanket of divine mystery. If I had a dollar for every unanswered question left at the end of this film it easily could have paid my admission, and not a matinee, I mean evening shows at full price.
Overall, “The Book of Eli” was just a faintly sexist slab of violence with faith used like caulk to fill in all of the seeping plot holes and a disproportionately talented cast painted over all of it so you wouldn’t notice how shoddy it was unless you looked really close.