This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative.
It’s time to look at a pretty depressing kind of film from a while back. The Book of Eli is definitely not the kind of film where you can expect the characters to have a good time. The problem is that you won’t either. Between the level of grit and Mad Max vibes the movie gives off from the start this film ends up being pretty terrible very quickly. Literally the first scene of the film involves animal violence and from there you know that things are not going to get much better. Films have a way of tipping their hand early if you know what to look for like the recent Transformers film. As long as you pick up on the key points you won’t be surprised.
So once that scene is over and done with we see Eli get jumped by a bunch of bandits. He murders all of them except for the leader. He is carrying a package and heading somewhere but refuses to let anyone see what is in the package or for anyone to know where he is going. The whole thing has to be done in utmost secrecy after all. The problem is that the world is pretty much ruined and everyone out there is only looking out for himself. There’s one town in particular that has gone really over the edge and it’s ruled by a man named Carnegie. This guy aims to steal a certain book for himself so that he can really establish a chokehold over the world. The problem is that his men can’t read so they can only grab as many books as possible until they find the right one. When Eli shows up Carnegie figures he may have finally found his man. Eli will have to try and escape along with a girl named Solara whose life was going to be in danger in the city anyway so she figured she may as well tag along. Now the journey begins.
The Book of Eli is just a very gritty film all the way through. The animal violence is just the tip of the iceberg although on its own that would still be a very big problem. It’s not like you can just bypass that. You need to already have a lot of good will such as being a 9 star film so you can survive the drop or be a long running show where you build up your points again. For a film like this you need all the stars you can get so it really doesn’t help. Animals definitely don’t survive Eli’s expedition and it’s a true shame.
Eli is a good main character at the end of the film. He learned from his mistakes and how he lost sight of everything along the way. It’s reeeeeally tough to overlook his shaky beginning though. The scene where he lets a lady be dragged off for a fate worse than death and doesn’t life a finger to help is terrible. That’s the kind of action that you can barely even call a mistake because it’s so bad. At that point his safety was worth more than anyone else’s. The worst part is that it probably wouldn’t have even been all that dangerous for him. He is shown to be a very good fighter right off the bat so I’m sure he could have won.
Those are the kinds of dark themes this film thrives on though. Bad things are always happening to the characters and there just isn’t much that they can or want to even do about it. They’re doomed and they know it which just makes the trip worse for them. The town is completely corrupt either way so there is no more hope. Eli wants to bring hope back as his delivery is the only thing that can do it but he sure takes a while to get there. Then you got cannibals to worry about and things like that.
Solara is the main heroine here and she’s not bad I guess. She’s doing her best to survive at this point. You’d think she’d be a little more grateful for Eli telling her to stay back but allowing her to keep a cover story rather than trying to rummage through his things the whole time. She tries to look at the package more than once and you’d think she would have more restraint given the circumstances. I don’t blame her for falling for Eli’s trap at the water boulder though because who’d have thought that the main character would leave her for dead like that.
Make no mistake, if she didn’t escape she would have been dead. Once the villains made it to the cave to get their next batch of water she would not have had a chance. Finally we have the main villain Carnegie who is definitely not impressive. He spends the climax whining and groveling which is definitely not something you really want to see your main villain doing. I mean c’mon now, he has to hold himself with more dignity. He basically squanders his entire empire and there is no coming back from that. He definitely didn’t plan things out very well.
Okay time for the spoilers parts of the film so skip these next 3 paragraphs because they all involve the climax of the film. Technically the film reveals what the package is rather early on but it’s done with some subtlety at first until it becomes completely obvious. You should still pick up on it fairly early on when the main character is in town though. So Eli is traveling with a Bible. We find out that the world has gone to ruin and is basically a Hell on Earth now because the Bible’s have all been burned. Society changed massively after some kind of cataclysmic event and rulers were quick to assume power with bombs. I believe the cataclysmic event was that World War III occurred but I’m not exactly sure if they officially name it. Either way you do get the gist of it though. Everything is blown to smithereens and we don’t have technology anymore for the most part.
So Eli is delivering the Bible somewhere based on a vision God have him. He doesn’t know where the destination is so he just has to keep walking in that direction until he reaches the end. We also find out that Eli is blind so the fact that he is able to fight and maneuver so well is due to God aiding him on the journey the entire way. It was really good to see the Christian themes present themselves here and in such a positive light. I’ll at least give the film credit here because it’s such a rare sight. Especially nowadays you are unlikely to see films acknowledge God in a serious manner.
This does raise further questions on how Eli fell so far from the path but I already spoke on that quite a bit so there’s no need to keep on going there. The film acknowledges the power of the Bible as well as the fact that whenever you read it you will always find something new to learn. It’s why it is easy to see how Eli could keep reading it over and over again because it is the only book in existence that never really has to end. Memorizing it would certainly be quite the feat and impossible without God’s miracle here.
Overall, The Book of Eli is a terrible film that at least has a great twist at the end. It’s not enough where it can save the film because everything else is so poor but at least it looks like the movie was trying to go for a good message at the end. The execution wasn’t quite up to the level it needed to be but I appreciated the attempt. You can definitely make a good movie out of this story, but you just need to tone down how corrupt this world is or at least what we see on screen and get implied. There are many ways to get across that this is a terrible world with no more hope without being so direct. If you handle that well then the rest will follow. So instead of watching this film I’d recommend you check out Yugioh Bonds Beyond Time instead as a film that is also about bringing hope back to a world that is about to lose its future.