A Look at the Differences and Similarities between
The Road Warrior and The Book of Eli,
2 Post-Apocalyptic Cinematic Visions Separated by 29 Years
by Jerry A. Sierra
The first half-hour of ELI sets up a mystery that unravels slowly; why does Eli walk west? What is the mysterious book he protects? And what book does Carnegie (Eli’s nemesis) seek?
Everyone in Eli’s world is either predator or prey, and after an hour in this world we discover that the book Carnegie wants is the one book Eli just happens to have. Eli must protect the book he carries so it will survive into the next ascension of man.
“It’s not a fucking book! It’s a weapon!” says Carnegie (Gary Oldman). “A weapon aimed right at the hearts and the minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them.”
The bible may have always been a powerful weapon, but it has rarely been treated as such in a major film with a major star. Eventually we discover that all bibles were burned after “the war,” which implicates religion itself in whatever war took place.
Carnegie has specific plans for the book; “If we want to rule more than one town we have to have it,” he says. “People will come from all over and they’ll do exactly what I tell them if the words are from the book. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.”
This gray, dusty world doesn’t offer many choices beyond extreme good and evil, and at first we’re not sure if Solara (Mila Kunis) is herself a predator. We eventually learn that she’s a survivor. Her mother (Jennifer Beals), a blind woman in servitude to Carnegie, has fewer options. Kunis makes a refreshing presence and received a People’s Choice nomination for it.
Some critics described the film as “religious propaganda with action sequences.” The Village Voice headline for the review read “The Book of Eli: Kicking Ass for Jesus.” And yet the film clearly functions outside the bullet-point narrative of the Sara Palin, Michelle Bachman variety. The message professed by Eli is more “spiritual” than downright religious, more reflective than dogmatic: “People had more than they needed… we had no idea what was precious, what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.”
When asked what he learned from reading the bible all those years, Eli responds, “do for others more than you do for yourself.” And yet early on he watches as a helpless couple is murdered and robbed by bikers. “Stay on the path… it’s not your concern,” he repeats to himself as the bikers rape and kill the woman.
Even with the religious undertones, the film does not fit in well with the crop of recent films identified as “Christian” (CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, PASSION OF THE CHRIST, others) and is not even identified as such.
In WARRIOR, Max is not given to speeches or explanations. We know from the introduction that his wife and child were killed by bikers like the ones he now faces. Max is also something of a “savior for hire,” trading his services for “all the gasoline” he can carry.
The obvious shortage of ammunitions in Max’s world tells us something about life since the war. Without mentioning a single word about this in the film, we’re made aware of why the bikers use crossbows instead of handguns. When Max fires his sawed-off shotgun for the first time, the shells turn out to be duds.