Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Book of Eli

The Film: The Book of Eli

The Players: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Beals, Mila Kunis, Michael Gambon, Tom Waites (one of these days, I will sit down and blog a paean to Waites in film), Malcolm MacDowell, and so on.

The Dealio: Eli (Washington) is a guy who has spent over 30 years on a mysterious quest which came to him 'from a voice inside myself.' A man of few words, he is clearly not into touching or being touched by others-physically, emotionally...let's just say 'in any way'. He is also called 'The Walker', because he-duh!-walks every place he wants to go. En route to his final destination (unclear exactly what this actually is, Eli still remains resolute in his conviction that he is on the right path) drop assorted, nasty, avaricious characters, with whom he is forced to deal in a variety of most graphic ways. Amy- do not watch the first 6 minutes of this film. Even so, he is meant to be seen as a post-apocalyptic version of Caine from Kung Fu, Weedhopper- with much the same mindset and skills.

The Grading Session: 3.27 pengies out of 5. It truly pains me to drop down so many points in any movie which contains vivid and 'hooky' performances by Waites and Gambon, although I am wearying of close-ups of Oldman's pockmarked face, meant to say, what? This is the real deal? My sig other walked out of the theatre with the over-theme stuck in his brain. This is good. I also like that a unique gumbo of washed out blues, blacks and greys mapped the landscape and backgrounds of almost every scene, while the humans- or some of them, anyway- provided any touches of color. This was an ambitious undertaking, but it fell short in astonishingly basic ways, while soaring in the more difficult-to-translate-onto-screen applications. I am at a loss to know why this should be. Maybe. Oh, never mind.
Wait, OK, lemme put it this way: once we have learned to run, then ride bikes, then drive cars, then- for some of at at least- fly planes or helos, do we then forget how to crawl or walk? Also- why is it acceptable-when nothing genius occurs to the filmmakers- to fall back on in-your-face-violence, which serves no useful purpose in advancing the story, and then is so amateurishly chopped into that story?

Lessons Learned: OK, take a break, get up, walk around, stretch, get something to eat. We're going to be at this a while, as I have just mounted my soapbox. You have been warned.
1) It has come to my attention, repeatedly, that the terms 'dystopian' and, especially 'post apocalyptic' have become shorthand for lazy film making. Want some examples? OK.
The easiest way to show man's descent into total chaos and depravity is to make him/her become zombies or cannibals. It is especially helpful in identifying the bad 'uns to note a few simple characteristics which set them apart: they all have bad complexions, rotten teeth, stringy hair and bad hygiene. If you see someone who is not currently serving aboard a galley with really cracked lips, this is also sending a clear message: these are not good, helpful folks.
2) In the PA/D universe, apparently the first things to go are gas and water, but not necessarily in that order. How do I know this? Because what you see in any landscape involving roads, is that the roads are clogged with abandoned vehicles of every description. Emphasis on the word 'clogged', as in, no one can get through. However, the baddies seem to have unlimited supply to both (contrary to the above comment on hygiene. They have absolutely no intentions of wasting water on such trivialities). Chapstick is the new Krugerrand. Aaaand, the only people whose vehicles never seem to run out of gas are the-wait for it- bad guys. Unless, of course you boost a vehicle from the baddies. As to why the good-who are, in this same sloppy shorthand-also the have-nots, I wonder: where do they get the water and, for that matter, the chapstick, to maintain their high levels of cleanliness and lip perfection? I mean, Denzel's scarf was frakkin' pristine, y'all! Oh, yeah, and apparently, in this world, wet wipes from KFC are da kine: hoard 'em, trade 'em, use them medicinally. They will become a universal cure.
2) Aside from the above ways I have helpfully provided for you to tell heroes from bad hats, let's add another: despite being beaten and having her clothing ripped up, our heroine emerges without a mark on her lip or a tear to her duds immediately afterward,(although a cut lip catches up with her about 15 film-minutes later. Personally, I think film minutes are like football minutes: when there are 5 minutes left to play, this translates into about 90 minutes in football time. If there are 15 minutes remaining, crud! We're talkin' 3 more days of football. Perhaps film minutes work the same? Dunno). Anyway, back to our heroine who, post assault, is now sporting attire from the A & F Fall 'Post Apocalyptic Safari Collection': lovely suede boots (earlier, Eli was forced to steal boots from a dead man who- wouldn't you know it?- takes the exact same size as he does- as well as being in much better condition than our good guy's shoes. Now I am puzzled), a beautiful, becoming flannel shirt, tee, a couple of 'goin' to kick some serious touchus' jacket and pant ensembles, all set off by a nice gold necklace and a lovely violet scarf. Great designer sunglasses, too. I would have thought that, after the fall of civilisation as we know it, the gold, the scarg and the sunglasses would be long gone.
3) More signs of 'lazy film making': Everybody seems to rack rounds into shotguns with wild abandon, but never fire a shot. Pu-leez! I have to sit next to Prendie in these movies, and can see his lips tightening and a look of disgust forming on his cute face whenever this sort of scene spools out on screen. This is a stupid, amateurish mistake, but one which occurs over and over again in huge budget movies. How much could it possibly cost you out of your mega-budget to hire Dale Dye- or even Prendie- to make sure these things are done correctly? While we are on the subject of weaponry, one of my all time faves showed up in this flick: a Gatling gun! When was the last time you saw a Gatling gun in a PA/D movie? Also, who knew that a GG would be far more destructive than a rocket launcher? Given the nature of upstanding citizens' homes, as depicted in movies, (they are, frankly, always made of tissue paper and Swiss cheese. So neither a GG nor a rocket launcher is really, really called for. The bad guys just spent 15 movie-minutes shooting holes big enough to push a Hollywood ego through, without touching sides anywhere. Just get a big, bad wolf to huff and puff and...well, you know).
4) It is the hallmark of either a really good, or a really elliptical (um, that would be 'other than good') film that eavesdropping on 12 exiting viewers either lets you hear 12 different opinions on what the film meant. Either that or a fight breaks out. This film carried just such a hallmark.
So- really good? Or really other? You be the judge.

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