Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Word Is As Sharp As A: A Review of THE BOOK OF ELI

So, I read a book a while ago called, "Stuff Christians Like" by Jon Acuff, which is based on a blog of the same name, and it is a completely funny laugh out loud read. I highly recommend if you get the chance to give it a peruse (yep, peruse, that's a 2 dollar word right there, so please donate lots of money so I can continue to use such flowery language in these posts). Anyway, the reason I brought that up is one of the things that Jon (yeah, we are on a first name basis cause I read his book) says "Christians Like" is violent movies. The argument is made that since the Bible, God's word, is full of bloody battles, wars and murders, it was fine for us, being Christians, to watch such things on film. And you know what, I could try to disagree, but my movie watching list from the last 2 years speaks differently. So, with that all said, here it is, my movie review of, THE BOOK OF ELI.

Plot: Ok, I have to be upfront, if I am going to talk about THE BOOK OF ELI properly, I am going to have to give a lot of the cool neato surprise plot twisty things away, so before you go any further,

Stop reading if you don't want to know, watch the trailer, it should tell you if you want to see it. Otherwise, on to the story. So, the back story. 30 years ago, there was a war of some type and a "Flash" took place, (they are really vague on this, was it a nuke or just some incredibly over powered Japanese camera that misfired, meh*) after which most of the people died and much of the earth became a scorched barren wasteland. When this happened, people all over the scorched barren wasteland seem to blame God for this, (oh, hey, maybe it was God's over powered Japanese camera) and thus they had a great bonfire and, poof, up in smoke, they got rid of all the Bibles. Cut to 30 years later, and enter Eli (Denzel Washington). Eli is a man on a mission for God, literally. He heard the voice of God tell him to find a "BOOK" that was buried under some rubble and take it west. He was also told that on his journey he would be protected and that he would know when to give the book into someone else's care. And that is what he has been doing, heading west, for 30 years. 30 years, really? (yeah, that seems like a long time to me too, just to make it to THE WEST. I mean, where did he start, Australia? Cause from the look of it, he has been in America the whole time and I know he is walking and all, but not even I would take 30 years to make it all the way across the good old U.S. of A. Anyway) Then enter Carnegie (Gary Oldman). He is the "Mayor" (or mob boss, I say this in parentheses, which in this case implies I am whispering in case he hears me, which I don't want, cause he is mean) of a small town who is obsessed with finding a particular book, so much so that he sends out raiding parties of bikers who look for people with books, and you can probably guess what they do to them once they find them (it is not a tea party, so guess again) Anyway. if you haven't figured it out, the book that Carnegie wants is the book Eli has, the last Bible. He thinks that with the Bible in his possession, he will be able to lead people to do what ever he wants, cause with the Bible comes power, and most people can't read, so he can twist the words anyway he wants and no one would know the difference (I have heard people do this a lot, both Christian and atheist, and we can read, or, at least I hope you can, or you are just on my blog for the pretty pictures). From there a big fight ensues and lots of violence happens.

Main Themes: One of the men at my church that occasionally preaches mentioned The Book Of Eli in his sermon a while ago. He said that he saw it on a plane, and that was one of the only reason he watched it. He then called it one of the worst and stupidest movies that he had ever seen, (On a side note, the second he said this, I had trouble listening to anything else during the rest of his sermon). One of his main "problems" (again, nice enough man, terrible movie sense) with The Book Of Eli was that throughout his journey, Eli ends up killing many people very violently (check out me, using the alliteration) while defending himself and protecting the book. This seemed to be a problem for the speaker, cause killing people over a book, especially a Bible, seems wrong. But is that really the case? Thus, one of the main themes that comes up throughout the movie is the power of ideas, words and especially, books, and then the balance of that against the value of human life. Books can have power and value, but only the right books. I find it funny that many of the books that are brought to Carnegie, which have value today, including an Oprah magazine, are worthless and thrown away, cause they have no power in his time. So, value and worth are one major theme that run throughout the story. As goes most apocalyptic waste land movies, the true value of the essentials of life become crystal clear. In the middle of the movie, Eli is asked how things were before "The Flash" and he says, "People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn't. We threw away things people kill each other for now.". So, yeah, value. Human, book or otherwise is a huge theme in The Book Of Eli.

The other main theme of The Book Of Eli is FAITH. Eli is on a mission, that by all logical thoughts, is pretty much crazy. He is taking a book cross country, all by himself, facing incredible odds and perils, cause a voice told him to. Sounds nuts, right, well, did I forget to mention that Eli is blind (I didn't really forget, I was just waiting for a good time to tell you, and now seemed as good a time as any). Yep, I hope you took that spoiler warning seriously, cause this is not something that is supposed to be common knowledge at the beginning of film. Eli is blind, and watching it through a second time, it is easy to see all the little hints that you as the film watcher are given about this. Now for confession time! I am sure some of you are reading this and 5 minutes into the movie knew Eli was blind, but for the life of me, I didn't catch it, (I am usually pretty good at spotting these sort of things, but I am actually glad I didn't cause I love a good film reveal). Now, if you can't "see" (pun not intended but funny none the less) some great faith stuff in this, well, then you must be, well, "blind" (pun totally intended that time, Booya). And that brings us too, da ta ta da ta ta ta taaaaaa! (Insert trumpet crescendo)

Theological Discussion Points: Wow, where to start, cause there is a bunch of great stuff, so here is what I am going to do, I am just gonna throw out some thoughts and let you take it from there. A warning first though, just as in my TAKEN movie review, (which is awesome, if you haven't read it, make sure to check it out after you finish this one) THE BOOK OF ELI is an incredibly violent film. And I mean, really really violent. It is probably the most violent theologically based movie I have seen since THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, so know that this could cause you problems, either in showing it to teens, or some really violence hating senstitve Christian friend of yours that will leave the room yelling HEATHEN at you at the top of their lungs the first time Eli pulls out his sword and starts a hacking away in the defense of the Bible. And I don't want anybody saying to an angry parent, well the supercoolawesome blog guy said it was fine to show to your 13 year old daughter, cause I didn't! Take this for what it is, a suggestion of a movie that is cool and raises a bunch of great questions, with a guy wielding a wicked cool sword. What you do with this is all on you. So, here are some thoughts.

Is killing wrong when you are defending yourself and the very last bible on earth?

Would you kill if you were in Eli's place (that ones for you, nice enough man at church with terrible movie sense)?

Could Eli see all the time during his journey, or did God grant him sight only some of the time, or not at all, choosing to allow him to walking by faith and all that?

Did God protect Eli from the bullets of the gun men or where they just terrible shots?

On the same thought, was Eli awesome with that bad @$$ sword and fighting moves before his mission or was he just being moved by the Spirit, to protect him and Gods word. (the observant viewer will have seen the clipboard with Eli's name on it that was in his backpack. I mention this because it appears Eli worked at K-mart before the "Flash" and not many K-mart guys can handle weapons like that. Now, if he worked at S-mart, that might be a different story)

If King David in the Bible killed tons of guys to protect Gods stuff (nation, ark, big foam novelty finger with the slogan "# 1 GOD") isn't Eli justified too?

If all the bibles on the planet suddenly were gone, what do you think would happen?

When Paul in the bible talks about running the race, he probably wasn't thinking of poor Eli, blind and alone for 30 years, but can you think of a better movie illustration of what Paul was talking about then The Book Of Eli?

Lastly, I will end with a thought of mine and a quote from Eli. Isn't it kind of amazing that in 2010, when the world is starting to hate Jesus more and more publicly, especially in the media, that a mainstream, big budget, star power driven action movie was about a christian man saving the last bible. Sure, it is violent, sure, it has swearing and bloodshed, but it also looks at faith and truth and value in amazingly real ways. And I think, that deserves a little credit, even if your great aunt Ethel who loves Jesus, will hate it. Over to you Eli, take it home.

And all Gods people said.........

*meh, in case you don't know, is like a literary shrug of your shoulders. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!

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