So once again we have survived.

Book of Eli

tn_bookofeliEverybody loves Denzel Washington, including me, but I’m not 100% sure why. I mean, he’s a real good actor. Shoulda got an Oscar for MALCOLM X. Was good at chewing it up in TRAINING DAY when he did get the Oscar. He’s just so great at playing intelligent, strong, capable. But the weird part for someone as popular as him is that he’s not so big on playing likable heroes. His usual character is intense but mostly humorless. Kind of self righteous. Kind of a dick, if you think about it.

So it was pretty brilliant to cast him as a lone samurai walking through a post-apocalyptic wasteland on a mission of faith. The Denzel persona is much more endearing when he doesn’t just give verbal beatdowns, but full-on swordsman massacres. Actually he’s a little different in this one too – quiet and kind of crazy from being alone.

mp_bookofeliThe movie is by the Hughes Brothers, who I really like even though they haven’t made a movie in 9 years, and that was FROM HELL. Good for them getting Mr. Drama to do something like this. I guess he does those Tony Scott thrillers and stuff, but that’s about as loose as you’d expect these days. It’s been a long time since RICOCHET, that’s for sure.

I read somewhere that Denzel was one of the first choices to play Blade. I’m glad his MO’ BETTER BLUES bandmate took it instead, but it’s funny – I always thought the idea of Denzel as the Daywalker was ridiculous. Now here he is 12, 13 years later doing what he referred to in Entertainment Weekly as “Blade stuff,” and convincingly. His fighting is mostly of the “you come up to me and threaten me, but then I do a couple quick moves that leave you whimpering on the ground” variety – so old, but so enjoyable. But there are a couple full-on multiple attackers fight scenes, and those are fun too.

The fights are by Jeff Imada (BOURNE movies, BLADE, John Carpenter movies), and Denzel was trained by Dan Inosanto (Bruce Lee’s #1 student, “the Professor” in REDBELT, “Sticks” in OUT FOR JUSTICE). There’s been alot of hype that the Hughes’s had them do the fights in long takes, no disorienting cuts or closeups like you and I hate. Despite what you may have read it’s only the first fight that’s in one take, and I’m not sure it’s true that Denzel did all the fighting, because that one’s all in silhouette. But the action is all good, from barfights to bandit encounters to a ridiculously escalating gunfight. This is one of the only movies this year with a battle involving Academy Award winner Denzel Washington, sitcom star Mila Kunis, Punisher Ray Stevenson, Gary Oldman, a gatling gun, and HARRY POTTER’s Michael Gambon as a friendly grenade-tossing cannibal. I mean, that’s not an ensemble, that’s a motley crew.

Denzel’s mission is to carry his Bible west, because a voice told him to. Manifest destiny. But he goes through a small town (like one in a western, except with the headquarters in an old movie theater) where Gary Oldman happens to be a leader desperately seeking a Bible so he can use its words to rope in “the weak and the vulnerable.” He’s a pretty one-dimensional bad guy, more of a symbol than a character, but Oldman plays him kind of real instead of playing him PROFESSIONALly.

They try to get this Eli to hand over his Bible, but he refuses and walks out of town, so Oldman’s goons go after him. Most interesting is Stevenson, who I didn’t recognize without his skull t-shirt. He continues his streak of strangely sympathetic and eloquent murderers. Man, give that guy some more roles. He’s great.

The details of the world are there – how they get water, how they barter, who to be afraid of, how to hunt a cat. I think the best scenes are little moments of happiness for Eli – when he finds some good shoes and struts around in them; when he listens to Al Green on his iPod and cleans himself off with KFC moist towelettes. There’s talk of how in the old days people threw away what people would kill for now, and you see the value of little things. FOr example Oldman shampoos Jennifer Beals’s hair – it’s like a luxury vacation in a travel-size bottle. Even the most powerful guy around can’t get shampoo very often. I mean, it’s a little bottle like you get free in a hotel, and to them it’s like they found a diamond or something.

So it’s a good character, good performance, good setting, but to tell you the truth the story is not quite there. I think it gets bogged down in Bible talk in the second half. It’s not too preachy (just a simple guys-who-believe are better than guys-who-exploit theme) but it gets distracted from the asskicking, and then doesn’t have a climax big enough to recover. It does have an interesting surprise that makes you want to watch the movie again to see if it makes sense, but I’m not sure the significance of that twist, if any. It’s cool, but is it empty? I think it might be. I’m not sure.

The obvious comparison is THE ROAD, and I thought this might end up being the post-apocalyptic action movie that the Weinsteins wanted you to believe THE ROAD was when they made all those horrible trailers. In THE ROAD they’re travelling east and in ELI he’s traveling west, but they’re not complete opposites. ELI is more fun and mainstream, but I think it’s also trying to be more thoughtful than it can handle. It can’t really compete with THE ROAD for raw emotion and hope in the face of devastation, so honestly it could stand a little more popcorn. And maybe a little more color – I’m kind of sick of every movie being washed out to almost look black and white. But they probly didn’t know what THE ROAD was gonna look like when they made this.

A better comparison might be TERMINATOR: SALVATION. Both have action scenes and settings better constructed than their stories. And, sorry to say this ELI, but SALVATION looks better and the action is more exciting. It has more money to spend, so the desecrated landscapes look like a real place as opposed to the fakey Photoshopped landscapes of ELI. But ELI doesn’t get as dumb as SALVATION, it doesn’t have the same legacy to live up to, and the story is at least more focused. So it wins overall.

All of the recent post-apocalypse movies have been enjoyable in different ways. But all of them make me want to call the hospital and ask for Dr. George Miller.

Despite all this, it’s pretty fuckin great to see Denzel playing a post-nuclear samurai. So I definitely recommend this. And I hope the Hughes Brothers don’t take another 9 years for their next one.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010 at 2:29 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

98 Responses to “Book of Eli”

  1. Cheers Vern ….looking forward to this one. Denz would make a great uncle.
    Ray Stevenson is indeed great. The partnership of him and Kevin Mckidd in Rome is one of my favourite on-screen buddy events. And this year we’ll see him in Jonathan Hensleigh’s “The Irishman” …..nice.

  2. I think of Denzel as the best overall actor out there right now, and he has been for more than a decade. Sure, he’s made movies that aren’t great, but he always seems 100% committed to his performance. I’ve never seen him mail it in. And I think his performance in “Training Day” is one of the two best male acting jobs I’ve seen in my lifetime, the other being Brando in “The Godfather.” He’s riveting in that movie – you can’t take your eyes off of him.

    This movie is getting some good reviews, and it does have Denzel, but I don’t know, I’m just not all that excited about seeing it. Strange. I mean, shit, it has Oldman too, possibly the best character actor of the last 20 years. Maybe it’s the taint of a January release. Maybe it’s the way the landscapes look in the commercials – sort of cheesy, sound-stagey, like Vern said. Looks like this one will probably fall to the rental pile. I just really only wanted to talk about Mr. Washington.

    One really overlooked performance of his was in “Courage Under Fire.” I had some problems with that movie, but not with him. I still don’t have any idea how he didn’t at least get a nomination for that.

  3. I saw Al Green during the summer and man, the guy can still deliver a great show. His voice is still perfectly in tact and he can move around really well for a chubby old guy. In the event of an apocalypse, I would miss his music.

    But I think this review seals the deal in terms of me not even renting this thing. I was a little scared off by all the talk of Christian thisandthat playing such a big part of the movie, but figured it could still have some good Omega Man / Mad Max style thrills, but hearing that Gary Oldman doesn’t let ‘er rip with his acting prettymuch robs this movie of any appeal it might’ve had for me.

    Also, hearing someone call it a nudge better than Terminator 4 is like saying something hurts less than a hole puncher through the eyelid.

  4. they need to make a Fallout movie next

  5. for a biblical PA movie starring my man Denzel, this doesn’t sound great.
    if they’d’ve let the Zel walk around as a dude who can kick copious ass but doesn’t it probably would be cooler.

  6. I liked it a lot, though there were one or two plot holes (Denzel and Mila both getting out of places that are locked from the outside and apparently with only one exit, Mila not knowing how to read, but knowing how to drive a car), but it was enjoyable, Denzel was great, and I liked that surprise, which thinking back there were a lot of clues about, without making it too obvious.

  7. How has Gary Oldman made it his entire career without even an Academy Award nomination? Unless I’m missing something. There has to be something at least worth a nomination in a resume with that much variety. Nuts. Hell, they could’ve nominated him for Gordon–he wasn’t out of this world or anything, but that’s hardly a prerequisite for an Oscar nomination these days, there are head-scratching noms all the time (just what did B. Pitt do that was so special in “Benjamin Button,” anyway?). I guess the producers didn’t want to steal any votes from Heath Ledger.

    All praise I see for “Eli” seems pretty heavily qualified–as in, “it’s pretty good BUT…” With a 2-year old on my hands it usually takes something pretty big like “Avatar” to get me to the theater these days, or else something I really, really want to see like “Hurt Locker.”

    Always looking for good suggestions for the Netflix queue or PPV so this probably fits that bill.

  8. Damn, until you said it, I thought for years that Oldman was at least Oscar nominated for “Dracula”. But well, some actors have to wait longer to get their recognition by the Academy. And then it suddenly happens because of something completely unexpected! (Just remember Johnny Depp, who gave one great performance after another, but then got his first nomination for a funny pirate movie, that was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer!)

  9. Man, I remember those first few early film roles of Oldman’s: SID & NANCY, PRICK UP YOUR EARS and ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD. At the time, it was exciting to watch someone with such classical skills and an outsider’s attitude perform, even if the material wasn’t always the best. Oldman doesn’t just disappear into his characters, he disappears into the script. I can’t think of an actor off the top of my head who demonstrates such an understanding of the whole film he is working in.

    Back then, me and my pals would pretty much see anything if Oldman’s name was on it.

  10. I’ve talked a lot about this movie in the Potpourri thread so I’ve sort of shot my wad already, but I’m curious as to what you guys think of the film’s treatment of the value and/or danger of religion to a burgeoning society. Do you think it makes a good case for spirituality or, like me, do you think the Bible is just a macguffin for everyone to chase after while wearing supercool shades? Discuss.

  11. CJ- While Depp probbaly deserved noms for his prior work, there shouldn’t be any reason someone can’t be nominated for a comedic role. It’s said it’s a lot harder to be funny than to be dramatic, and the Oscars could do with breaking up the adherance to po-faced “worthy” nominees. I read that the chinese equivalent of the oscars one year had Kung Fu Hustle win best picture, so let’s see more love for things based on how well they work as ENTERTAINMENT, because that’s what movies are meant to be. It’s pretty sad when you can predict someone will get a nom based on if they play someone who’s famous, has a disability, or has just generally been in a bad place in their lives.

  12. Mr. Majestyk: I haven’t seen BOOK OF ELI, so I can’t comment on it, but let me throw the second part of your question back at you: it could be argued that the titular religious icon in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is nothing more than “a macguffin for everyone to chase after;” unlike other films that try to use religion to create a grand but facile sense of jeapordy, in RAIDERS it’s pretty much indistinguishable from any doomsday device with no subtext whatsoever. I’d venture to say that it doesn’t hurt the film in any way, and probably helps it.

    Having said that, I’d agree with you if you said that the use of religion in action/adventure films is usually pretty silly. this upcoming LEGION film in particular looks outright goofy to me.

  13. Nonono, please don’t get me wrong! I belong to the group of people who demand more attention for comedic roles and movies for years! Shit, I even tried to convince everybody that J.K.Simmons’ performance in Spidey 2 should have been honored with at least a Supporting Actor Golden Globe!
    All I wanted to say was that Johnny Depp was known and accepted a great actor before, but was even ignored for Ed Wood! And then, all of a sudden, he stars in a Jerry Bruckheimer production (who is the biggest enemy of the wannabe-intellectual movie critic!) and suddenly the Academy has no problem with nominating him anymore!

    P.S.: Everytime the discussion about the aknowledging of comedies/comedic roles comes up, I have to think about something that Eddie Murphy said a few years ago. One day someone talked to him and told him how great he was in Dreamgirls, especially how impressed he was by the scene where he tries to do drugs on christmas and how surprised he was that he is such a good actor, Murphy replied: “In another movie I even played a whole family!” And then the man just said: “Yeah, but that was just in a comedy.”

  14. I think the Hughes Brothers did a great job with the film, especially the first twenty minutes or so which are sort of like a Terrence Mallick Road Warrior that really takes advantage of the whole size of a cinema screen, but I’m afraid after that the religous aspect to the movie mixed with a bit of the old violence as special guest star Malcom McDowell once said made me more than a little uneasy.

    Before I posted this I called Road Warrior “Road Runner”, and Malcom McDowell Malcom McClaren! I’m not sure where my head is at today, though the idea of a Mad Max/Wile E. Coyote team up is intriguing.

  15. The difference is that Indiana Jones is not painted as a prophet who’s trying to preserve the religion of the Hebrews. He’s just a treasure hunter. Also, RAIDERS never pretends to have anything to say about religion, so the arc’s status as macguffin is perfectly acceptable, with the added subtext being that it’s the Jewish god who takes vengeance on the Nazis. In BOOK OF ELI, Denzel’s character is supposed to be protecting the Bible in order to preserve its teachings because God Himself spoke to him and told him to do so. My question is “Why?” I don’t feel that the film makes a very good case for the usefulness of religion. In fact, it’s quite muddled in its message. Wouldn’t the best way to preserve the philosophy contained in the Bible be to preach it across the land like a missionary, spreading it in an oral history? Instead, Denzel kills everyone who gets close to it. It seems like the filmmakers didn’t know what they wanted to say, so they let Denzel’s natural charisma carry all the weight. You’re on his side because he’s Denzel, not because you believe in his quest.

  16. Mr. M — haven’t seen ELI yet but from the way people have been describing the religiosity of it I’m kind of hesitant, to tell you the truth. I’d accept it as a McGuffin but frankly I think the last thing post-apocalyptic Earth is gonna need is the Bible. Especially true since if God is so involved that he’ll help Denzel kill everyone to save the good book, he obviously could have prevented the destruction that caused all the other bibles to be destroyed in the first place.

    I’m gonna have a hard time rooting for wholesale slaughter of people who don’t share one guy’s fanatical devotion to a book (and apparently, not even the content thereof, but the physical structure)

  17. And also It’s a total copout if the debate ends with “he was right because God said so,” which totally killed the otherwise great FRAILTY for me as well. God pretty much has the final say over what morality is, so simply resolving your story by writing that God agrees is about as lazy and unfulfilling as screenwriting getsm IMHO.

  18. He’s killing them because they’re stereotypical post-apocalyptic berserkers, not because they don’t believe in the Bible. Most of them don’t know that he’s got it and wouldn’t care if they did. The only one who cares about the book is Gary Oldman and, by extension, his henchmen. The problem is, wouldn’t the Bible say that these are just poor heathens who need to be saved? Denzel sent a lot of lost souls to hell on his quest. I mean, he kind of apologizes to God for all the killing, but he never even tries to preach the Word. He just goes right for the machete.

  19. See, I disagree about FRAILTY. I think it’s even fucking creepier that this is how God solves problems. Rather than, I don’t know, not making demons in the first fucking place, He makes a good man murder people in front of his kids. The idea of a father going homicidal with theological hysteria and dragging his kids into it is scary, but somehow knowing that this is all part of God’s fucked up plan is way scarier to me.

  20. Yeah, that’s what I mean; I know he’s not killing them for their religion, but because his book and his quest is more important than their lives. I’m not sure I’m down with that. But as I said, I havn’t seen it yet; I love the Hughes so I guess I’ll have to. I’m just kind of trepidacious over the moral ambiguities of a guy who puts the bible before human life.

  21. Majestyk, I see what you’re getting at. I misunderstood your earlier post.

    In ELI, what does God want Denzel to do with the book, if not preach from it? Does he have to deliver it to some dude who is better suited to preach from it?

    How about this: would ELI have been a more interesting movie to you if the role played by Washington was instead played by Mel Gibson? Talk about baggage, eh?

  22. Jareth, Denzel was instructed to bring the book “west,” where someone could preserve it for posterity. There’s no indication of what, if anything, is going to be done with it. It could just be going on the shelf with the Ark for the movie tells you.

    And yes, maybe Gibson’s presence might have made a difference. No disrespect to Denzel’s performance at all, but with Mel involved I would have gone in knowing the movie would likely be pro-God and thus would have stopped looking for some measure of ambiguity that simply wasn’t there.

  23. Jareth-in ELI, The Voice Denzel hears tells him to take the book west to a place where it’d be safe and used right. I’m hesitant to get into specifics because of SPOILERS, but in the end, it’s not just about The Bible. There’s other stuff that’s being kept safe, and The Bible isn’t even the only holy book involved. It seems more about preserving the knowledge/works of the past for building the future. I found it a little bit refreshing how there was more balance in how it explored the use/power of religion/faith. Not outright preaching, but thankfully not the rather one-sided “religion=bad” message you often get in (Post)Apocalypse stories. Maybe these sorts of stories could be told better if there was more of an effort to distinguish the idea of God from what religion is, because they’re connected, but not the same thing. And Denzel does of course talk about how the way he’s acted hasn’t perhaps been keeping with the spirit of the book(at least the New Testament side anyway). Of course, maybe people just need to take this shit less personally and treat it like just a story. Do some atheists have a big problem with The Force in Star Wars?

  24. Funny thing about the Mel Gibson question, as I saw a trailer for that new film of his he’s doing when I went to see Daybreakers, and it ended with Mel saying something like “you have to decide sooner or later if you’re up on the cross, or banging in the nails”!

  25. Spoiler warning etc etc

    Stu – I’d agree with your point if the film didn’t seem to confuse itself with conflicting plot points. Having it essentially confirmed as trufact that eli is hearing the real words of God – because how else would this blind dude have found Alcatraz and confirmed that it is indeed the right location? So you have this weird thing where in some aspects it’s just used as an interesting mcguffin (with a tenuous suspension of disbelief – every bible was destroyed? The most printed book in the world?) and in others it’s basically “yep god exists and Eli is a prophet”.

    I enjoyed the first 3/4s, but I think the ending is very very messy. Both from a thematic and structural point of view.

  26. “The Voice Denzel hears tells him to take the book west to a place where it’d be safe and used right.”

    Do they explore the implication that Denzel is the right guy to run the delivery errand, but not to use the book? Because that could have been neat.

    “There’s other stuff that’s being kept safe.”

    One would hope that dvd copies of ROBOCOP and EL TOPO would be on that list of other stuff. And SUPERVIXENS.

    Thanks for the clarifications, guys. I know it’s a pain in the ass to respond without spoilers to us chumps who haven’t sat through the damn film.

  27. Yeah I think the sequel should feature Russel Crowe carrying the last DVD of GROUNDHOG DAY to be preserved for all humanity, and killing anyone who tries to stop him.

  28. Mr. S, I know you’re joking, but I’ve learned a lot more about how to lead a decent and fulfilling life from GROUNDHOG DAY than I ever did from the Bible.

  29. “Do they explore the implication that Denzel is the right guy to run the delivery errand, but not to use the book? Because that could have been neat.”
    No, but as pointed out, it could be seen as a bit hypocritical for him to try to preach it when he tries to live in ways not exactly supported by it. Early on something horrible is happening that he could step in and stop, but he forces himself to stay out of it for the sake of his quest, and for most of the movie wants to stay out of other people’s problems and not draw attention to himself so you can draw your own conclusions about it. For what it’s worth, I think from a practical point of view of what the aim would be with the book, he did the right thing overall. If he’d preached himself with the sole copy it could have been a bit of a risk to himself and the book, and what he does gives a better chance of it being used right eventually.

  30. That’s what I’m interested in, Stu. What do you think the movie considers the proper use for the Bible? I tried to look at it like the residents of this world would. They’ve never heard of God or heaven or morality or the afterlife or spirituality of any kind. How are you gonna sell it to them, and what good would it do them? Maybe you’re a religious person and so you take it as a given that keeping the Bible around is a good thing (and I hope you don’t think I’m knocking you for it, because I’m not–I’m not a believer, but these issues legitimately interest me from a philosophical standpoint), but the movie’s tabula rasa society provided an interesting venue to actually defend its necessity. Maybe I’m asking too much from what is essentially an action-adventure movie, but that’s the price you pay for having an thought-provoking premise and not following through on it.

  31. Mr M – my question exactly (and don’t worry, I’d happily kill anyone who fucked with the last copy of GROUNDHOG DAY and consider myself completely justified. Hell, I might kill a fellah or two over STRIPES). In this day and age, I don’t think its acceptable to merely accept as a given that the Bible (or any religious doctrine, for that matter) is a good thing to have while rebuilding society. Had this movie come out 20 years ago, that would have been a perfect stupid little Mcguffin to hang an action movie on, but nowadays I think you’ve got to justify why this book is worth all the lives it costs. Which is why I think the “no, God exists and actually told him to” is such a co-out, effectively ending any debate over its intrinsic worth and nullifying any baring i might have on the real world.

  32. Mr. Majestyk-
    I’m kinda religious (I believe, but I’m not a church-goer or much of a reader of the bible) but I didn’t think you’re knocking me for it. And I hope I wasn’t coming across as knocking non-believers when I talked about finding a pro-religious approach refreshing. As for what the movie considers the proper use:

    SPOILERS

    SPOILERS

    SPOILERS

    Well at the end of the movie, the Bible is put on a shelf right next to the Torah and I guess (I didn’t pay near enough attention to say for sure) all the other major works of religious texts, so it seems that what’s going on is the Alcatraz people are just cataloguing it all so that when they do rebuild society enough (and they’ve got a lot of other knowledge that’ll help with that, as well as more fertile ground to start from), religion can have a place again if people want it. Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible is still just a book with some teachings you can take or leave as you like. So I dunno, maybe the idea just is to leave the Bible there for those who it will help, not necessarilly everyone. In fact, it could be them making sure that church is truly seperated from state, as the difference between them and Carnegie is that they’d set up/run the new world without using the bible, while Carnegie definitely wanted to make it part of his institution. You could even maybe interpret that the voice guiding Eli isn’t necessarilly the Judeo/Christian God, but a more nebulous general creator deity that just wants there to be as many sources of spiritual guidance as possible. In fact, if they went with that, it could open up a whole franchise detailing how the other works ended up with those people (although to be honest, if there was going to be any sort of expansion into making it a series, I’d rather see a prequel about the younger Eli near the start of his travels).

    END SPOILERS

    END SPOILERS

    END SPOILERS

  33. “You could even maybe interpret that the voice guiding Eli isn’t necessarilly the Judeo/Christian God, but a more nebulous general creator deity that just wants there to be as many sources of spiritual guidance as possible.”

    I had thought of that angle myself, but decided that it was more a case of the filmmakers wanting to have it both ways.

    I’d like to see a movie where a shotgun-wielding Hasid delivers the Torah. But if they do that prequel instead, they need to hire Don Cheadle. Dude was badass in BROOKLYN’S FINEST.

  34. Tom Cruise Stars In:
    The Book of Hubbard.

  35. Put it this way: how well do you think people would take a movie abot a Muslim guy killing folks (mean folks, but still) right and left with a singleminded goal of saving the Qur’an for future generations? Even if at the end there was bible too? My guess is that movie would feel the need to do a lot of ‘splaining about why this was such a worthwhile goal.

    I do know this, though, if I see a guy crossing the post-apacalyptic wasteland with the last copy of FIREFLY, I’m running the other fucking way. That’s a dude you don’t want to mess with.

  36. I didn’t like this movie so much. Preach preach preach, unoriginal fight scene, rinse wash repeat.

    Wake me up any time Ray Stevenson or Tom Waits is on screen. Stevenson was fucking amazingly layered, far beyond anything I’d ever expect of a right hand man henchmen type role, and Waits is just a God walking among mortals.

    I wanted to like it. Denzel was fine. And I’m an unapologetic Hughes Bro’s lover, even From Hell. It just didn’t click. I felt like I’d seen it all before just not with the novelty of the worlds biggest African American movie star (he’s bigger then Will right?).

  37. “Put it this way: how well do you think people would take a movie abot a Muslim guy killing folks (mean folks, but still) right and left with a singleminded goal of saving the Qur’an for future generations? Even if at the end there was bible too? My guess is that movie would feel the need to do a lot of ’splaining about why this was such a worthwhile goal. ”
    I personally wouldn’t have a problem with it if the antagonists were just as antagonistic as in Book of Eli(though the setting and such would have to be amended to make the Qur’an feasible as the same sort of tool the bible would be in america). Of course that wouldn’t stop conservative christian jackasses from reacting horribly to it.

  38. Did you mean Firefly or Serenity? Maybe there’s something else out there called Firefly, just want to be clear.

    But if you’re talking Serenity, is that because J. Whedon fans tend to be a little…devoted?

    I’m not too much of a Whedon fan myself. I did sort of like Serenity, though. Not a bad little SF adventure. Not too cute or self-congratulatory. Nothing worth getting all hot and bothered about, but pretty decent ersatz Star Wars, if you ask me.

  39. jsix, you’re totally right about Stevenson. He’s this big, hulking brute who wants the bad guy to “give” him a sweet innocent girl, and instead of thinking “That monster!” you think “Aw, what a softie.” He’s not doing anything other than what your standard henchman would do, but you’re on his side anyway. That’s some crazy level of subconscious acting ability right there.

  40. jsixfingers: Have you seen IMAGINARIUM OF DR PARNASSUS? Waits was really good in that one, almost as good as DOWN BY LAW. Unlike, say, FISHER KING or DRACULA, PARNASSUS really gives Waits a neat role to inhabit.

  41. I’m a big Whedon fan, but he does have a few tropes that can annoy (one I call “love is pain” where usually a romantic relationship will end in a painfull breakup or an incredibly tragic and unfair death of one of them), but he does actually have a bearing on this, as he’s an atheist, but doesn’t have a problem writing stuff about Gods and Devils and Prophecies, Chosen Ones, Demons, Heaven, Hell, Wise non-judgmental preachers(albeit with implied special ops background).

  42. I agree about Stevenson and Waits too. Dr. Parnassus was a bit lacking as a story, but he was great in it. Glad I’m not the only one who thought Stevenson was portrayed as not entirely a bad guy. Though if he really cared about Solara, you’d think he’d have stopped them shooting that house she was in with the gatling gun/rpg.

  43. Stu — I don’t mean to imply you’d be against it (I doubt anyone here would be — in fact, it might be more interesting because it is a little unexpected). As you point out,
    though, a movie like that would probably feel the need to defend its protagonist’s actions or acknowledge the moral ambiguity, rather than taking its general correctness for granted, as the script seems to do here. And if that movie ended with the revelation that Allah does exist and he specifically demands these actions, well… I kind of think some folks might flip out just a little bit.

    Tom — yup, thats what I’m saying. Those guys are crazy. They will kill you.

  44. I don’t think though “God” tells Eli to kill anyone who tries to stop him. It gives him the simple task of taking it west, and everything else Eli does is how he chooses to handle it. Killing specifically to defend the book and not just himself is perhaps questionable, but given what Carnegie planned to do with it, was it wrong, exactly? AnSPOILERSdSPOILERSmaSPOILERSybSPOILERSeSPOILERSit’SPOILERSsbecSPOILERSauSPOILERSseSPOILERSofwSPOILERShatheSPOILERSchoSPOILERSsestSPOILERSodotSPOILERShatreSPOILERSsultSPOILERSsiSPOILERSnhiSPOILERSsprSPOILERSotectSPOILERSionrSPOILERSunSPOILERSninSPOILERSgout?

  45. Well I dug this movie quite a bit. I spent a whole day going over this movie with Majestyk in the Potpurri, so I don’t really have much to add. I would simply like to add my earlier point that the ‘twist’ of the end places the film in the same context as the dozens of “small miracle” stories that are in the Bible (and probably other religious texts) where God’s prescence is expressed through small acts of making the impossible possible, stories like Daniel and the lions or Christ dividing the fishes and bread.

  46. BIG SPOILERS DON’T READ

    Majestyk, I interpreted it differently. I saw on the potpouri thread you thought he had magic God powers – I didn’t read it that way. I thought he was more like Zatoichi. He heard bullets. It seems more anti organized religion than pro religion. It makes very plain and not subtle that bad people use religion to manipulate people. I read the interview somebody else mentioned from Ain’t It Cool where one of the Hughes brothers said he was a non believer and that he had actually cut a bunch from the script where Eli preaches. As it is he quotes the Bible, but also Johnny Cash. At the end he merely preserves the Bible so it can be put on the shelf like various other books, to be perused in a library at Alcatraz. The bad guys burn books, the good guys publish them. Ghost Dog could be friends with these guys.

    As for the voice, I don’t think it was necessarily God. I think the twist at the end makes you have to go back and see things differently. I suspect the voice was really some hippie like Malcolm McDowell who knew about Alcatraz Press.

  47. “Ghost Dog could be friends with these guys.” The highest compliment that can be bestowed on a group of people.

  48. SPOILERS AND SHIT

    Vern, I mentioned in the potpourri thread that I can buy Zatoichi or Blind Fury or Daredevil because “blind badass” is the premise of the story. It’s the price of admission. Your disbelief must be suspended this high to ride this ride. Book of Eli let me get on the ride, ride it all the way to the end, and then retroactively hit me with the idea that a blind man can shoot a rapist through the cock with a bow and arrow for purposes of poetic justice. The only way that makes sense to me is through divine intervention. Even with that hippie ex machina you theorized, I can’t buy that the best plan would be for him to tell a blind dude to “Go in there, take that book, and go west.” Those are not very helpful instructions. What if he ended up in San Diego instead of San Francisco? For me, the movie doesn’t work without God’s hand on the wheel, and like Mr. S said, that’s kind of a cop-out. It removes all the ambiguity from the story.

    Again, I would like to stress that I’m being so hard on the movie because I was really intrigued by the ideas it brought up. If it was just stupid all the way through I probably would have liked it just fine as a decent Man With No Name-style flick.

  49. Was there really any ambiguity to begin with? I mean if they had painted in moral grays, then hit you with “By the way, God made it happen so this one side is right”that’d be one thing. But the bad guys piss malevolence and shit nastiness and the hero is a righteous deliverer of justice. It was never even in question whether Eli was in the right, whether God was present or not.

  50. The funny thing about that arrow to the balls was how when Carnegie and his men find the bodies, they don’t seem to react to it at all.

  51. I’ve read that this movie is a remake/update of ZARDOZ, which is pretty funny because in that film the “Good Book” turns out to be (spoilers) THE WIZARD OF OZ. Making the book an actual, factual bible turns the message of the film on it’s head… that people can build a religion out of any old nonsense (see also: scientology). Also, does Denzel wear Sean Connery’s costume from that film? Cause that would be awesome.

  52. OK, just got back from seeing this thing. At first, I liked it a lot more than I thought I would; by the halfway point, I thought “damn, this thing has won me over!” and then it proceeds to gradually piss away all the good will it had built up until at the end I felt pretty ambivalent about it.

    SPOILERS!

    The religion wasn’t quite as much a problem for me as I thought; or, rather, for the reasons I thought it would be. Unfortunately the movie seems to waffle between being a full-on religious crusade and a politically correct “all religions are equally valid” cop-out. I agree with Mr. M that you can’t really imagine the voice was anything but God, but there’s not really enough religion in the rest of it to make God’s direct involvement make sense. It doesn’t make much of a case for why the Bible is so necessary to either Gary Oldman or the new civilization, but if it’s just one more academically interesting book for a curiously uncredited Malcolm McDowell’s museum, what the fuck was the point? I actually would have liked them to pile on the religion or dispense with it, rather than weakly saying “yeah, God sent him, but it’s not a big deal or anything.”

    SPOILERS CONTINUE!

    Noting that the Hughes took out some of the more preachy parts makes a lot of sense, because this feels like a movie where the script and the directors are sometimes pulling in opposite directions. In fact, I sense a lot of the script didn’t make it to screen. What the fuck are we supposed to think of Michael Gambon (who IS credited, even though he has, what, four lines?) and his wife, who appear, act nice, are revealed to be helpful cannibals, and then die? If that wasn’t more developed in the script, then it can only be some leftover artifact from an earlier version of the script or something. There’s no way that sequence played out the way it was intended. And, unfortunately, that’s the climax of the the thing, and probably the weakest sequence in the film from both and action and storytelling standpoint. Overall, the script and story just feels too slight to be the epic it obviously wants to be. More than anything, it feels like the theatrical release of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, like the bare bones of a story with all the meat taken out, which then tries to pretend its full of meaning. And it’s frustrating, because the bare bones are great enough that you can imagine how the thing would have looked with a little substance on it (to mix a metaphor).

    Anyway, didn’t hate it, but was pretty underwhelmed in the end. Still, I’m glad I paid to see it in the theater (student night — VT student IDs don’t have expiration dates and I fully expect to use that thing till I qualify for a senior citizen’s discount) because I believe that the Hughes Bros have a masterpiece in them somewhere and I want them to have the funding to make it when the time comes. Actually, they already made on masterpiece AMERICAN PIMP and one highly underrated great film, DEAD PRESIDENTS (which proves that they can do epic under the right conditions). ELI didn’t add up to much for me, but at least it was striving for excellence. That seems to be the theme of this year’s unexpectedly awesome January releases — guys going for the home run but ending up with respectable but disappointing base hits instead. Well, keep swinging, boys — I’ll be there waiting when someone finally hits it out of the park.

  53. ““Yeah, God sent him, but it’s not a big deal or anything.”

    I’d read any bible that is written with this kind of narrative voice.

  54. I submit that “The Book of Eli” is America’s first Pantheistic, Pandeistic film – whether it does this well is another question, but with this by itself I have no complaints. I just hope someone does it better the next time around – in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, obviously.

    The problem with the film – as a few here have already expressed – isn’t the presence of religion as an element in the movie by itself, but that Carnagie comes off like a James Bond villain, where really they should’ve taken a couple of notes out of the “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” playbook, and used the character of Aunty Entity as a model, especially given the markedly similar contexts that the two stories take place in.

    For my part, I would’ve greatly enjoyed seeing those sequences where Eli finds himself preaching – would’ve put some real flavor into his character among other things, I think.

  55. SPOILZ

    Well, first of all, if God did send him then isn’t that cool that God sent him on a mission to include the Bible among other important books? I think that’s a cool and unique mission from God.

    Second, what’s wrong with the possibility that *he believes* he was sent by God but isn’t necessarily right? Maybe it’s quasi-spiritual to say he did impressive things because of faith (the Secret?) but that seemed to be more what the dialogue pointed toward than it actually definitively being the Lord speaking directly to him the way He did to Moses and Bush.

  56. Just saw it today and it hasn’t really had time to marinate yet, but this is the best movie I’ve seen in the theater since Inglorious Basterds. Some bullet points:

    *The “Twist” worked for me. I think it’s open to interpretation. You can say SPOILAGE Eli was being led by God the whole time to dodge bullets and shit (like when Punisher missed him) or he was just Zatoichi Beyond Thunderdome (like smelling the bandits from 30 feet away) and I think it works either way. Of course I haven’t seen it twice to make sure everything adds up just right, but it seemed feasable enough.

    *I haven’t seen The Road (cuz I live in Bumfuck and we only get the popcorn flicks) but I hope it’s as good (if not better) than Eli.

    *LOVED the opening day-to-day routine of surviving the apocalypse stuff. (The scrotum washing via KFC Handi-Wipe was my favorite.

    *This movie made me yearn for all those cheesy Italian Mad Max rip-offs from the 80’s like Warriors of the Wasteland, Escape 2000, and Hands of Steel.

    *This movie made me yearn for all those cheesy Colonated American Mad Max rip-offs from the 80’s like Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.

    *Was it just me or was Gary Oldman channeling Michael Parks? (Particularly in Death Wish 5)

    *Don’t want to get off on a rant but I thought the notion of a world without religion to be a very bold vision of the future. In an age where kids can’t pray in school and the Christ is slowly being taken out of Christ-mas, I found the idea of burning bibles to be all too believable.

    *Not much of a Denzel fan (I agree with Vern, he was awesome in Ricochet), but he owned in this movie and had the deed to prove it.

    *Mila Kunis is a much better actress when she shuts the fuck up and just stands there looking hot.

    That’s it for now. It’s late and I’m beat. Time to hit the sack. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have more to say but for now, later gators….

  57. Are the spoilers in this review wrong? Because from what the guy describes it doesn’t sound like there was any real ambiguity about the fact that God really did send him on this mission, and was making him invulnerable to bullets (but only as long as he had faith in the mission) and also was the direct cause of the apocalypse.

  58. Sifl – that review is completely colored by his kneejerk anti-religion feelings and that makes him misinterpret most of what happens in the movie. I mean, alot of it is deliberately ambiguous, for example you could believe that yes, God made him bullet proof, even though it seems much more likely that the bullet bounced off the giant metal Bible in his backpack. But the idea that it was made as “Pat Robertson” religious propaganda is pure bullshit, since the Hughes Brothers are not religious.

    Because he already hated it so much he starts looking for shit to misunderstand and get outraged by, so he ignores a major subplot about cannibals getting radiation poisoning. Also, I guess I missed all that about it being the Rapture and not nuclear war because I don’t know which part he’s talking about there.

  59. Oh yeah, and how great was the shootout scene? (It reminded me a bit of The Gauntlet.) I loved how the camera zig zagged back and forth from inside to outside the house in one (cleverly edited) continuous take.

  60. I also have to sing the praises of Ray (Punisher: War Zone) Stevenson. He did some fine work as Carnegie’s right hand man and brought an extra dimension to his otherwise flatly written character. There’s a scene where Carnegie agrees to give him Solara if he captures Eli but Stevenson subtly plays it as if he was doing it more to protect her from Carnegie instead of the usual I-want-her-as-my-sex-slave deal. Not many actors would go through the trouble of giving their henchman character depth. Be glad Stevenson does.

  61. Agree about Stevenson, also really liked his death scene as he looked genuinly shocked/upset. I think a lesser actor might have felt the need to add in a “i was trying to help you” last line or something, but he just leaves it all down to his physical acting.

    As for the ambiguity of God in the film, I agree with the point made that the script/directors seem to be pulling in opposite directions and want it both ways. I think the main bit it screws up is when Eli actually finds Alcatraz. In my mind that seems way too much of a “well he must have been sent their by god”, because the only other solution as to how he knew he was in the right place is just poor script plotting.

  62. “Isn’t that cool that God sent him on a mission to include the Bible among other important books?”

    Even more cool if the next mission is to retrieve a copy of SEAGOLOGY from an underground tribe of angry zombies. Maybe give him one of those bookmobile busses to drive around in.

  63. Ray Stevenson is the surprise here. I enjoyed his guy the most.

    My least favorite Hughes Bros. film.

  64. I second the lifetime achievement Oscar for Gary Oldman. I think the first movie I saw with him was ROMEO IS BLEEDING, which is a decent bad cop black comedy, notable mostly for Oldman’s performance and Lena Olin being crazy as hell in it. I’ve still got a crush on Lena Olin from that movie.

  65. SPOILERS FOR BOOK OF ELI AND AVATAR

    At the end I was bummed that Eli died, not because it was sad but because I would’ve watched more movies with that character. I had the same feeling about Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez in AVATAR. I must be brainwashed by the “franchise” mentality.

  66. I was glad that the dude from HATCHET survived AVATAR. But I do think that if he’s in the sequel he should have to pay for his new avatar out of his own pocket so he’ll learn some responsibility.

  67. Vern: I wouldn’t worry too much about having been brainwashed. You’ve argued quite well in the past against the structural problems these franchise movies often bring with them. And AVATAR certainly wasn’t one of these sorts of movies.

    I’d venture to guess that your response to the death of the two AVATAR characters is in part informed by a slight dissatisfaction with how poorly rendered the characters were. It’s only due to the strength of the actors’ performances that their deaths even register.

    Compare, for example, Michelle Rodriguez’s character to the similar but much better rendered Vasquez character in ALIENS. Vasquez’s death was the meaningful conclusion of a character arc that felt true and earned; Rodriguez’s character was more of a charismatic plot point that served a function and was curtly dispensed with.

    Anyway, that’s just my admittedly cynical take on it.

  68. AVATART SPOILERS: I agree with you on Rodriguez’ character in AVATAR. She flipped sides on the Marines without a backwards glance, which I found a little unrealistic. They could at least have added a scene in there where she said “Well, I’m screwed now so I might as well go for broke.” Or she reflected on how she would be viewed by humanity – probably as a traitor – and how that might affect her family. Or something, anything. Instead (like everything else in the film) we are expected to go along for the ride and not think about anything on a more complex level. She’s a cardboard hero, dying for a cause, and you know she had to die because she was the only human to fight against the other humans in the movie except for Sully who isn’t even human by the end of the movie. All loose ends cleaned up, the end (until the humans come back with a nuke but never mind).

  69. Ooops AVATAR, not AVATART, though I think I just made up a good title for a virtual reality furry porno.

  70. Yeah, Jareth, I think maybe he was saying that he was sad to see those characters die because he liked them. I think they had all the personality they needed: Chopper pilot who didn’t sign on for this shit and decides to fight back, scientist tough enough to go to a savage jungle planet and stand up to a bunch of jarheads. I don’t see Vasquez being much more well-defined than that. I think maybe you’ve just seen ALIENS a lot more than you’ve seen AVATAR and so you feel you know Vasquez a lot better.

  71. I do have to give Ray Stevenson massive respect for really working hard to bring texture to his generic thug role. But in some ways its just another example of the Hughes working against the script. Here’s this guy putting on a great, nuanced performance, but the script is working as hard as it can to convince you he’s a dumb brute. The way they shoot his SPOILER SPOILER death scene you’d think it was the most heroic thing anyone did in the movie. But the script seems to think its poetic justice that this asshole wannabe rapist died impaled on the sword he’s taken from Eli. I mean, that’s not just an actor bringing something extra to the character, to me it feels like Stevenson and the Hugheses are just fighting the script to put something in there that doesn’t fit. Rather than amplifying the script, it feels like they’re trying to cancel the things they don’t like and insert new things in without changing the words, which just kind of evens out to neutral, for me.

    I did think the 3 fights were fantastic, though,

  72. Mr. Majestyk: I don’t know, maybe you’re right. I can’t deny that I’m very familiar with Vasquez. One of the strenghts of the ALIENS
    script is that I want to know Vasquez – and am a bit scared of knowing her – based on the cool things she says. I want to see what makes her tick. Not sure I can say that about anyone in AVATAR outside of the female lead. But maybe time will change that.

    To be fair, though, time hasn’t made any of the ALIEN 3 characters any more endearing to me. Not sure I could tell them apart in a police lineup.

    If we look at something concrete, like dialogue, it’s difficult to argue that Rodriguez doesn’t come up on the short end. Vasquez is a real character with complex thoughts and feelings (isasmuch as possible in a sci-fi epic) while Rodriguez is more like an action hero Halmark card. It’s to Rodriguez’s credit that she can sell some really over-familiar material.

    But you know, I’m not really making a huge distinction between the two films. I know you’re going to get a lot of these familiar types in an action film. And, really, what film is going to compare well to ALIENS?

  73. And I guess it could be argued that the Ribisi character in AVATAR comes off about the same as the Paul Reiser character in ALIENS. So that one was a draw.

  74. You know, reading that review that Sifl posted, I am kind of intrigued by the idea that maybe the “flash” was actually the rapture. I seem to remember him talking about “the war” and such, but maybe it’s vague enough that that’s a reasonable interpretation. If so, I think it would be far more interesting movie in which all the hoopla over the bible makes a lot more sense. Again,though, if that’s what was meant, the Hughes should have played that up a little more and actually run with it.

  75. Mr. S, I think a sly bit of cross-purposes directational sleight of hand was also a shockingly out of place bit of product placement: the completely unfaded-by-the-blinding-nuclear-sun Busch truck. Judging by the model of Denzel’s iPod, I think the film is postulating that the “flash” took place in an alternate timeline 2004, when a certain Born Again with a homophone of Busch for a name had his finger on the button. The screenwriter might have thought that burning all the bibles was a bad idea, but maybe the directors and the production designer weren’t so sure.

    Hmm. Maybe the movie could grow on me after all.

  76. I’ll take you guys’ word for it that the review I posted was over-ideological and taking ambiguous things and interpreting them in an unambiguous way, but I just did some googling for interviewers with the screenwriter and found this one where he suggested that he did intend the ending (spoilers!) to be taken as pretty unambiguous evidence that Denzel had been guided by God all along:

    For me, the point of that twist isn’t a “gotcha” moment. Here’s what I feel and take away: if you believe he’s blind then everything he did in the film had to be impossible or a miracle unless he’s genuinely been guided by god throughout the entire film. Picking snipers off rooftops from fifty-feet away with a pistol is difficult for anyone. He’s doing things that are uncanny. My view is that when you see what the book is and that he’s blind that to me tells you god must exist. If not, then there’s no other explanation for how he’s been able to do all that he did. Now I don’t know how many people are picking up on that theme, unless you’re a person of faith perhaps.

    Also, one of the things in the review I linked to said that when they got to Malcolm McDowell’s library, it showed that he did have plenty of other religious books like the Koran…if that’s true, I wonder if that should be interpreted as the filmmakers implying there was something “special” about the Bible’s role in the apocalypse so that it was the only religious book that people intentionally tried to burn every copy of, or if it was just that Malcolm McDowell had to search long and hard to get rare unburned copies of these other books and now he was completing his “collection” by getting the Bible.

  77. You know, I WONDERED what the fuck was up with that giant Busch truck, the thing was practically glowing. I think its the single brightest object in the film. It would be weird if the Hughes made a film which intentionaly subverted the religious intentions of its script. That’s an interesting idea. If I watch it again, I’ll try to look for further signs that the Hughes are actually hinting that all is not quite what it seems… but if so, it completely went over my head while I was watching.

  78. Interesting. Looks like the screenwriter intended one thing and the Hugheses didn’t. But what the screenwriter’s argument (also made by commenters here) doesn’t take into account is that this is not reality, this is a motherfucking movie, and in movies blind people can do awesome shit because of their more refined sense of hearing. The use of his other senses is even emphasized in the movie, like when he smells the bandits. Was that God making him smell them?

    If Eli being led by God is the only possibility then that means Zatoichi, Rutger Hauer in BLIND FURY, Johnny Depp in ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, etc. also had to be led by God. Also any movie where a martial artist puts on a blind fold and counts on his other senses. You could extend that argument to pretty much any action movie – there is no way Batman could’ve survived falling onto that car without prayer, there is no way Chow Yun Fat had that many bullets without divine ammunition, etc.

  79. I’ll give you all of that, Vern, because I firmly believe in the action ovie credo of “It’s possible because it’s awesome.” But you still can’t make me believe he smelled his way to Alcatraz.

  80. I believe in Zatoichi and awesomeness in general. Still, in the context of the film (which shows other blind people who do behave like real blind people) I think its hard not to come to the conclusion that God is, indeed, making the impossible possible. Also I can think of a few instances of the top of my head where it’s obvious he’s looking at something — for instance, when he first sees the travelers getting attacked by the bikers, he bends down and peers over the edge. They might as well have ended it by saying he was deaf or that he really had no legs, for all they tried to incorporate it elsewhere in the movie. But that’s kind of a minor issue for me, I’m willing to not think about it too much in the name of awesomeness (actually, my impression in the theater was that it looked like he had bad cataracts, which might lead us to be believe he just sees very poorly). I’m less willing to accept that you can really logically interpret God out of the script without some fairly cumbersome rhetorical footwork. I mean, if you can walk out of this script convincing yourself that its ambiguous, I think you can probably do the same with PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Of course, maybe that’s the cool thing about using religion in your movie; no matter how much you layer it on, if you don’t want to believe you never really have to.

  81. caruso_stalker217

    January 23rd, 2010 at 12:31 am

    I have absolutely no religious beliefs or faith in a higher power or anything like that. But I have no doubt that the God Almighty was guiding Eli in the movie. He does a lot of blind shit in the movie, like feeling for shoes on a corpse or smelling hijackers. But the blind shit didn’t get him across America. As he said, it was “faith.” His blindness didn’t stop The Punisher’s bullets. He shoots directly at Eli twice and misses both times. He even looks at the gun as if to say “What the fuck?” Then he recognizes Eli is the real shit and he lets him go. Plus, Eli has a voice talking to him all the time, like when they’re in the house and it tells him he and Kunis are gonna make it out. And it guided him to The Rock. And to Malcolm McDowell playing John Carpenter.

    Anyway, as a non-believer I really fucking dug the divine intervention aspect. It didn’t work for me in FRAILTY, but it worked for me here. I really enjoyed this film.

    Jareth:

    ALIEN³ is aging like a fine wine. Charles Dance is a god.

  82. Spoilers:

    My own view is that Eli was led by God to the bible – he tell’s Solara it was buried under rubble, and he kind of instinctively knew when he’d reached his destination. As for the dodging bullets thing – I think the movie was making a point that just coz you carry a gun doesn’t mean you know how to use it. How many of those henchmen were keeping their weapons in condition? How often do they actually get to use them? You see Eli cleaning his weapon at the beginning – you also see his gun is very loaded, which makes all those confrontations with marauders interesting (“it’s not loaded – they never are!”). By the time Carnegie gives the order to shoot Eli, he’s already walking off and is probably about 30 feet away.

    BTW guys – I finally caught up with Blood and Bone. Going to be writing it up on my site shortly but I’ll just say that I agree with the general consensus it’s pretty awesome and will go as far to say the end fight is one of the best fights in an American film.

  83. Caruso, I don’t think Ray Stevenson let Eli go because he recognized him as a prophet or something. I think he let him go because he was thinking two steps ahead. He knew that Gary Oldman would want to track Eli down, so he let him go that he could make the deal with Gary Oldman for Mila Kunis later. If he really thought the guy was invincible, why would he even bother trying to kill him?

  84. So happy to see some conversation and love be spread on this movie. If this came had out in the 70s or early 80s, people would be all over it. As it stands it is a great pure genre movie. Not too deep, lots of fun and style and good old fashioned badassery. I look forward to watching this one multiple times on DVD.

  85. caruso_stalker: You know, I watched ALIEN 3 recently and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed AVATAR. All the flaws were still there – some of which are truly unforgivable – but, considering how many awful action/sci fi movies I’ve sat through in the last few years, ALIEN 3, in comparison, is almost a good film.

    The scene where Ripley is talking to Lance Henrickson’s severed head was awesome.

  86. The birth scene in Alien 3, intercutting between the cremation and the dog, was wonderful filmmaking. There’s an extended cut which is mostly better, but it has the Alien coming out of one of those shaggy oxen things, which didn’t impact in quite the same way.

    Overall, I think it’s a far better film than ALIEN RESURRECTION, say. But isn’t there another talkback for that?

  87. caruso_stalker217

    January 25th, 2010 at 12:57 am

    I definitely prefer the assembly cut. It feels like a more finished film, even though it actually creates new and exciting plot holes. I prefer the birth scene in the extended version. Mostly because the chestburster in the theatrical cut looks like a Muppet with Parkinson’s. None of the plot holes bug me because I understand what the situation was during the making of the film. I can even overlook the business with the egg on the Sulaco and the confusion over how many facehuggers there are in the movie. It’s also the only part of the movie where I understand why people get so pissed about the whole thing. Unlike the constant bitching about how they killed off Hicks and Newt. Other than some script problems (numerous though they may be) I think it’s a solid picture. It looks fantastic and has the best acting of the series in my opinion. I quote Charles S. Dutton’s big inspirational speech a lot. I’m hoping to use it at work some day.

    Plus, the movie has Charles Dance. Charles fucking Dance.

  88. “And maybe a little more color – I’m kind of sick of every movie being washed out to almost look black and white.”

    I have a feeling that vivid color will be making a major comeback in the wake of a certain successful movie featuring jade jungles and cerulean skin. Give it a year or two.

  89. PS:

    ALIEN 3 had major flaws, namely that you can’t go back to a single, measly alien after the hordes and queen of part 2, especially when said alien is chasing a bunch of indistinguishable bald guys we don’t care about. But it’s genius compared to RESURRECTION, which is a piece of cartoonish, unwatchable shit. This moment:

    http://img.listal.com/image/590859/500full-alien:-resurrection-screenshot.jpg

    — was the only good thing in the entire film.

  90. caruso_stalker217

    January 25th, 2010 at 7:27 am

    I dunno. That scene where they swim underwater for seventeen minutes is pretty awesome.

  91. I think why ALIEN 3 worked (for the most part) was because it DID go back to the single, measly alien. A single alien on a planet without weapons, and every other person on that planet is there because they did some nasty shit back home. It’s a further twist on what Cameron did with ALIENS. Take the protagonist and the antagonist out of the setting and the genre (sort of) and throw them somewhere different. In ALIEN 3, Ripley can’t flush the creature out an airlock, she can’t shoot it (no weapons) she can’t blow up the ship and she can’t leave the planet (established as a prison). She doesn’t have a crew (as in ALIEN), marines or family (ALIENS) to rely on. She has a bunch of rapists, murderers and whatnot who might even be more dangerous than the creature (well, sort of…).

    Now, I’m not saying that it was entirely successful in its execution, but I think it was the right way to go. I’ve read unused ALIEN 3 drafts online, and some (including one by William Gibson) tried to be hard to be another ALIENS and came across as pale imitations. Vincent Ward wrote a draft set on a wooden planetoid inhabited by monks that was pretty strange – I’ll have to read it again. Bits of it ended up in ALIEN 3 but the pseudo-medieval setting (the monks live without technology and regard the alien as a demon) was pretty interesting.

    I just read the script for THE BOOK OF ELI last night. Haven’t read the film, but I’m curious: has anyone thought that maybe Eli developed SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER super-daredevil senses in some kind of radioactive apocalyptic firestorm? The script indicates that most of the population are blind, but is that due to the glaring sun or something else? Just a thought.

  92. You make it sound good in theory, Jam, but the final product just didn’t cut it for me. The imagery was getting awfully familiar by that point. People wander around in dank, drippy passages, alien drills ’em in the head, etc. (Charles Dance’s final scene was a notable exception, and the most memorable part of the film.) In the first movie, we didn’t even know what the thing looked like until the end, which was scary. By part 3, people had dolls on their shelves.

    Religious fanatics are also almost always boring as characters, just as in real life.

    I know that Fincher came in late, and was kinda stuck with the project as it had been developed, so I don’t entirely blame him. But at that point in his career he looked like another Ridley Scott wannabe, and I didn’t have high hopes for his future.

    I’d have loved to have seen Ward’s film, though. That’s on my “alternate universe movies” list, along with Jodorowsy’s DUNE and Lynch’s RETURN OF THE JEDI.

  93. caruso_stalker217

    January 27th, 2010 at 2:05 am

    I liked Ward’s idea, but not for an ALIEN film. I think that would’ve been really out of place.

  94. Clarence Anson Williams III

    January 29th, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I have not seen this movie, and I probably won’t. However, I really enjoyed reading all of these comments. This is very intelligent stuff…you guys should be proud of yourselves for showing such respect when most websites seem to attract morons to their “talkbacks.” Of course, we all seem to love Vern, so that’s a common thread uniting everyone.

    Way to go Vern! Unite the people!

  95. “instead of playing him PROFESSIONALly”

    Is ‘PROFESSIONALLY’ a euphemism for ‘MEGA-ACTING’ ?

  96. It’s a reference towards Oldman’s performance in the Professional, wher he goes WAY over the top playing a psycho. It works in that movie, but in others it just comes across as him trying to hard. In Eli, he plays his bad guy like an actual human being, which is nice.

  97. Well, I finally saw this. Yeah, the coherent action scenes were refreshing, and you gotta love Tom Waits.

    But how dumb was Carnegie to not know there were green growing things a short ride away? If Carnegie and driver only had enough fuel to make it back to town and our heroic duo was able to make it to the coast, they were obviously very near. Or did God keep the car going even after they ran out of gas?

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