Eli's Tome

I got Book of Eli mostly for my wife a while ago (she's a bit Denzel fan). We finally tried to watch it Saturday, but, for some reason, the blu-ray player didn't want to output sound at all. After monkeying around with everything for a while, I finally tried unplugging the blu-ray player for a minute. For unknown reasons, it worked perfectly after that.

But it was really too late to watch it at that point (started trying pretty late, plus there were some other hindrances), so we went to sleep.

We tried again last night, and things worked much better.

It was a very interesting movie; I liked the slow start that very slowly filled in the background. But the whole premise was a bit weird; if a book is going to be hard to find, the Bible is the very last one I would guess. There are just too many copies in existence; heck, how many Gideon Bibles exist in hotel rooms across the country?

I suppose it's probably just me, but I'm also a bit uncomfortable mixing science fiction (particularly on Earth) with a faith-driven story.

There were some other major flaws as well: life will not last thirty years without copious water. They seemed to have Eli living on sixteen ounces or less of water a day; that just isn't enough. More importantly, there must be green, growing things, and those need even more water. If the bottom of the food chain is kicked out, the top cannot survive. Canned food is not going to last anywhere near that long (except stuff coming out of MREs). And scavengers will not have that kind of extra flesh. And with no agriculture, there won't be anything except scavengers.

I also wondered why the Alcatraz people, whoever they were, being so excited about a working (if manual) printing press. I guess there's some value in archival, but with a near-zero literacy rate you really need to start from the ground up, and a printing press doesn't do a whole lot for that.

And let's not even get started on an iPod lasting 30 years. Especially one with a (magnetic) hard drive.

Another minor issue: the size of the Bible. I knew, based on once having part of a Playboy in braille (part of, because the full magazine was published in seven pieces, and I only had one piece (itself larger than the normal, printed mag)), that a braille bible would be way larger than that. Looking it up, I can find a King James Bible that was published in eighteen volumes, each the size of the one in the movie.

Not-so-minor: you don't get that good at shooting a weapon without practicing. Practicing takes a lot of ammo. Ammo, it seems (to hear characters talk), is basically non-existent.

Similarly, three vehicles leave town. One blows up (and that grenade throw, to a moving vehicle, having never practiced? To say nothing of that being the most powerful grenade the world has ever seen). One turns around with barely enough gas to return. And the third has enough gas to drive all the way to San Fran? When the characters don't seem to know about the existence of San Fran? And when the clapboard house from which they drove seems midwestern? And when the vehicle has been heavily armored (mentioned because of its effect on gas mileage)?

And the odds of surviving that firefight, shooting from obvious locations, protected only by clapboard? Oy. Hmm... and the RPG didn't ignite the house. And, for that matter, they weren't afraid to use that RPG when they knew they wanted a book out of the house?

There were also a couple of scenes showing people with gas masks; who's making new filter cartridges for those masks?

I really find myself wondering how anyone could survive without being close to the shore (which is to say, within a mile or so of water, with closer being preferred).

I did like the five minutes of back-story they did on Carnegie; I guessed roughly how he was planning on using the book, but it was good to see what gave him the idea and drive. Of course, I suppose even that ignored one thing; if he thought it was so important, why didn't he get a copy when it was easy (ie: before the war).

Aside from all those issues, there really wasn't anything surprising going on. The biggest surprise was the braille; we were expecting either blank pages (my wife) or a booby-trap (me). Blank probably would have been better than braille; it really would have forced home the faith-driven aspect of the movie.

I'd classify the whole thing as well-acted and beautifully shot, but poorly conceived. I wonder how I would have reacted to the graphic novel; I suspect I would have liked it better. Part of that is that some of the flaws would not have been as obvious. In particular, the lack of vegetation would not have jumped out at the viewer as it did. It also might not have been as obvious how much was being stored in such a small backpack.

In any event, I have to rate it as, overall, disappointing. I wouldn't say it was bad, as most of those flaws are easy to overlook, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to see it again.

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