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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Book of Eli (review)

The Road to Denzel

When they left the multiplex the parking lot was cold and gray. The people shuffling like zombies silent and hopeless. Tolling in the silence the lost dreams of embarking upon Cameron’s otherworldly journey snuffed in the endless flashing sold out sold out sold out. The boy sighed. The man’s heart ached for everything the boy would not know at least till next weekend, and for the yawning desperation that had pushed them toward cliché and nonsense and the sickly ashy brown cinematography and civilization clutter that had come to signify the end of everything, and how it wouldn’t really be so bad after all.
Was Denzel one of the good guys? the boy asked. No, the man said. Yes. Impossible to explain to the boy and his innocence that the world was full of imperfection and decent people doing bad things sometimes for what they thought were good reasons but that good guys doing bad things in movies didnt necessarily mean that they walked a landscape that was authentic. The god-creators of the apoca-punk hellscape they’d stumbled from. Bad is cool. The man sighed.

***

Papa?

What?

I liked his things.

Denzel’s treasures from the world before. Like a fantasia of consumerism. KFC wetnaps. An old iPod and a battery to keep it charged. A leatherbound book to read every night.

He was carrying the fire, right, Papa?

Yes.

The book was the fire?

Yes. No. The boy wouldnt understand. To Denzel, yes. To the god-creators of the apoca-punk hellscape. But really the words in the book were the fire, a fire that could burn. Anyone could see that. No one needed the book. Just the words. Not even the words. Just words that sounded right. Anyone smart could make new words that could burn.

And that’s why the bad man wanted the book?

Gary Oldman.

Okay. Gary Oldman. That’s why he wanted the book?

Yes.

Okay.

The man sighed.

***

Papa?

What?

There was no food.

No.

Because Denzel had to eat a cat.

Yes.

We would never eat a cat, would we?

No.

Okay. Papa?

What?

If there was no food, how come there were big fat guys helping the bad guy?

I dont know.

Big fat guys need food to get fat.

Yes.

But big fat guys are scary.

Yes.

Okay.

***

Papa?

What?

Would bad people really kill good people over a book?

Yes.

Okay. Papa?

What?

Would good people really die over a book?

Yes.

Okay. Papa?

What?

Isn’t that kind of stupid?

Yes. No. The man longed for the boy’s purity and at the same time longed for the boy to become a man who understood that some ideas were worth dying for. Not all ideas. A man who could tell the difference. A man who knew that sometimes ideas kill themselves. Ideas sometimes stop being useful when they lose their context. The god-creators of the apoca-punk hellscape were blinded by one context.

The man sighed.

***

Papa?

What?

That stuff at the end. It was kind of silly, wasn’t it?

What? The people who were–

No. I liked that. It made sense. I mean, that one thing we learned. It wasn’t really fair, was it?

Oh. No. It wasn’t really fair.

Papa?

What?

The people who made the movie. They weren’t carrying the fire, were they?

No. Unless they were carrying the old Twilight Zone fire. Or the old Canticle for Leibowitz fire. Or the old Fahrenheit 451 fire.

What’s old Twilight Zone fire?

Never mind.

The man sighed.


MPAA: rated R for some brutal violence and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Alli

    So basically we should just go watch The Road instead?

  • LaSargenta

    No, we should go and read A Canticle for Liebowitz.

  • Once there were book trout in the shelves in the libraries. You could see them standing between the amber side panels where the white edges of their pages wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of bookdust in your hand. Polished and spinal and torsional. On their backs were publisher patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be shelved back. Not be made right again. Because Dewey Decimal wasn’t a very good cataloging system. In the deep rooms where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery (and western and thriller and sci-fi).

  • JSW

    But was the book on fire? I might actually want to see a movie about people fighting over a book that’s constantly on fire. Perhaps while they themselves are on fire.

    I like fire.

  • tomservo

    Are the Hughes brothers doing Blood Meridian next?

  • Alison

    Oh,ye of little faith.

    Gorgeous, gorgeous movie, but then, I live in New Mexico. I like desolation.

  • e

    I also live here in NM, so I’m wondering even with middling reviews if I should go see it, plus I loved the trailer.

  • Man, wasn’t that kid so annoying? Papa this, papa that!

    And yet, s/he was not as bad as this other kid who sat behind me at Where the Wild Things Are, who kept asking her dad, “Why is he so sad?” Literally, every five minutes: “why is he so sad?”

    The man sighed.

  • Fredrick

    Interesting review. I think though that a normal review could suffice just as well, maybe even better.

  • Muzz

    Yes, what the world needs is more normal reviews, there really aren’t enough. Possibly with numbers at the end. Or stars. People like stars.

    Anyway; Hilarious. Loved it. Loved PaulWs addendum too.
    I haven’t seen it yet, but a few have made the comparison to old sci-fi that turns on a single point, a la Twilight Zone etc, as well. While it is a bit of a problem that people aren’t aware of the old stuff, and movies like this may depends on that to some degree, I could stand to see this kind of thing coming back in general.
    (a sketch idea springs to mind where a lone badass traveller has to bring good sci-fi to the world before Darth Vader can get his hands on it, or something)

  • LaSargenta

    I sense this has a future as an Eddie Izzard piece. Maybe with some afterlife as lego animation on YouTube, too.

  • therev

    Brilliant review, as almost always. I was intrigued until they staged a rape scene against a remarkably ungrayed, untarnished brand-name beer truck, in what might be the worst product placement in movie history. Although Denzel cleaning his crotch with KFC wetnaps doesn’t really want me to go buy mediocre chicken, either.

    Still, I could appreciate a movie with religious overtones and a (mostly failed) attempt to make meaning that wasn’t driven by the whacky Christian right fringe.

    But I enjoyed the review a whole lot more…

  • misterb

    Is Avatar the anti-apoca-punk or is it a variation on the theme? perhaps next weekend, the boy can ask his papa this.

  • Boingo

    Bummer, I missed “The Road.” It’s out of the theaters-gotta wait for DVD. I was hoping Denzel’s flick was a decent
    “Man wandering devastation,” flick. Very creative little
    review, turning on the spit.

  • TwistedKestrel

    Once again MJ proves her reliability in her bias in her movie reviews. I knew before reading it what rating this movie would get; I’m having trouble imagining a non-religious MacGuffin to substitute the Bible with, but if one could be found I’m sure this would have earned a watch on DVD.

  • Joe Mama

    Why is this crap counted as a ‘review’ by Rotten Tomatoes?

  • @Joe Mama:

    Because Rotten Tomatoes are actually Killer Tomatoes, and Mary Sue, I’m sorry Maryann has threatened to sing “Puberty Love” at them unless they make room on their site for her reviews.

  • moe

    @Joe Mama:

    Call this review what you will, you still took time to read it. :)

  • Leah

    roflmao !! Great review !!! I might still go see it and as you know, I don’t always agree with your take on flicks but damn that was quite entertaining and clever.

    @twistedkestrel … at least MJ is consistant (j/k). Every reviewer and movie watcher has a bias. What world do you live in? On the other hand, how many of the reviews on this page started with something like: “I was prepared to hate this… ” or the like. MJ is open to being pleasently surprised which is as a great quality in her as her wit.

  • Allan

    I was finally cornered by my fellow villagers and forced to watch this. I fully admit I could not get beyond the fact that I was watching another film which posits, confidentally, that a lack of faith/religiousity, however ones frames it, caused by some undefined catastrophic event, will cause anarchy, savagry, and selfish, cruel behaviour. A basic study of Western history reveals the opposite is true. If you want naked aggression and self assured inhumanity in the face of social/civilizational collapse, pump in religion. It’ll provide all the obscenity and horror you’ll need. The “milk of human kindness” is a function of the rational mind, not the religious/faithful one.

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