DVD Review: The Book of Eli
August 8, 2010
I was interested in this movie for two reasons. First, I was told it had a Christian theme and was aimed at a Christian audience. Second, it stars Denzel Washington who, in my opinion is darn near perfect in everything movie he acts in.
Denzel Washington was excellent. But the movie was crap. It was aimed at evangelicals. My guess is that it was concieved as a project that would target the same audience that flocked to The Passion of the Christ. But it was written by someone who apparently has no clue how evangelicals think or what would make us get up to go see a movie (and recommend it to friends). The theme is that the world has been ravaged by war and the world is a post apocalyptic wasteland. After the war there was an effort to destroy all Bibles (because the Bible was blamed for the war). Eli (Washington) has the last extant copy. He has received a call from God to take the book “west” to some yet to be determined location. In the course of crossing the country he has to fight bandits, thugs, and cannibals.
But there are plenty of very silly things about this movie. For some unexplained reason Eli is a martial arts master who can disarm a whole band of attackers single handedly. Midway through, Eli befriends a young woman who looks and acts like a character from a Disney made for TV movie. The bad guys were clearly from general casting. They fit all the stereotypes (big bald guy, laughing motorcycle man, charming but evil lead character).
But the most annoying thing for me about this movie was the religion. It presented the Bible (and by extension Christianity) as a nice thing that inspires people to act nicely. This may seem like a positive portrayal (and I am sure the filmmakers thought it was) but it misses the radical and world changing nature of scripture. And the film completely lacked the presence of God.
The Heidelberg Catachism states, “When a person believes…the power of God . . . upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things, come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand” – when a person believes and cherishes that truth, they have the key to a God-entranced world view.” There was nothing like that in this movie. The disaster the wiped out civilization and almost wiped out all the Bibles? That was God’s “fatherly hand”. But this film didn’t get this point. This film seemed to think that somehow a martial arts expert who can survive bullets needs to take the Bible past a bunch of people who really need the Bible (without giving it to them) to get out west.
The other thing that bugged me is the motivation of the warlord who sought to take the Bible from Eli. This warlord (played by Gary Oldman) wants the Bible because he believes it will give him power and control. Sure. The Bible is all about allowing warlords oppress and murder people. Unless you read it. Then you find out that on almost every single page kings are being rebuked and the oppressed are being lifted up. Then you read that the God of the Bible is the God who defends the weak. No warlord would profit from having a bunch of Bibles being read by the masses. But this movie takes the bait and Eli refuses to give the warlord the Book. Why not make a copy for him? Heck, why not make copies for everyone? But instead, Eli heroically keeps the Bible for himself. Because if there is one thing Christians should do it is keep the Bible private and away from anyone who really wants to read it.
Eli had a God given purpose. To take the Bible to the “west”. What was in the west when he gets there? An intellectual bastion of people dressed in fine linens who talk with intellectual (and almost English) accents. What do they do with the Bible when they get it? They place it on a library shelf. Next to an assortment of classic books. Perfect. Now their library is complete. Thank goodness the hoi polloi didn’t get a hold of the Bible or the intellectuals wouldn’t have a Bible to put next to the Koran, Homer, a Tale of Two Frick’n Cities.
This movie was lame on almost every front. Which is too bad. I like the fact that they are starting to recognize that there is about 40% of the population who might like to see a movie that respects their faith. Unfortunately, for all its effort, this movie doesn’t respect the faith.