Post-apocalyptic movies bring to mind other movies, books, speeches and concepts. Totalitarian form of government, restriction in individual freedoms, repressive systems in constant violence and warfare, are just one of the main topics of these movies. This view of a futuristic society in chaos is a Dystopia, and was first introduced in our vocabulary by the English statesman Sir Thomas More in his 1516 book of the same title. John Stuart Mill used the word “Dystopia” for the first time in an address to the British House of Commons in 1868, to protest the Irish Government’s policies on land reform. The scenario in this movie, “The Book of Eli”, it’s just one of many in previous movies. We have seen it in the Day after Tomorrow, Mad Max, Fahrenheit 451 and George Orwell’s 1984 among others. In literature as an example we can point out the 1932 novel of Aldous Huxley “Brave New World”, in which a hostile government despises any concept related to family or culture, where artificial reproduction of children is practiced and prelabeld with Greek alphabet letters before even born. In “The Book of Eli”, the catastrophe of a nuclear event has reduced civilization to a desolate wasteland where the law of the jungle prevails. It does not present anything new in its plot or in its characters and maybe that's why screenwriter Gary Whitta managed a couple of twists that are problematic to say the least. In its early scenes The Book of Eli is almost free of dialogue, which serves to give the main character an idea of “the loneliness of Walker” (Denzel Washington). As Walker enters an abandoned house in search of water or anything else that might be useful, he finds only the boots of a guy who preferred hanging rather than survive in a world devastated by nuclear bombs, and by then Walker engages in conversation with a mouse that comes out of its hiding attracted by the traveler’s food. Walker is the lone warrior who just wants to get to his destination and refuses to interfere in the problems of a village dominated by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a sadist feudal lord that controls access to water. In addition to a horde of gunmen and sending riders on a regular basis in search of a mysterious book, Carnegie has at his service Solara (Mila Kunis), a clever girl who prefers to join the lone warrior though this would place her as a target by Redridge, the man of confidence of the sadistic overlord. Redridge needless to say, is distinguished by his height, his lack of hair, and his only desire is to have Solara as his breakfast. The action scenes, where Walker confronts all those, rapists, thieves, murderers, are by far the best of the film. The picture faded to simulate nuclear winter, slow motion to emphasize the solemnity’s soundtrack of the funeral events. All these movie effects are trying to convince us that we are seeing more than a typical action hero splitting his enemy’s apple in segments. It is clear that managers were more concerned with dispensing bullets and beatings to adapt to the subtext chosen by the writer. To explain what the subtext is, it’s necessary to reveal the two surprises hidden in the script, but only the second can spoil the film. In fact the first secret is so obvious that one wonders why they have bothered, and has the defect of being not credible. I mention the evil Carnegie is obsessed with finding a certain book, which is Walker's most prized possession. The book that Walker carries in his backpack is the same as the one Carnegie is looking for. Walker has an unusual code of ethics in the world in which he lives; meanwhile Carnegie mentions that this particular book will allow him to control the minds of his subjects. Have you guessed?
It seems strange that the most commented, sold and distributed book in the history of humanity could be so difficult to find, and someone willing to kill for a copy even after a nuclear war. Screenwriter Gary Whitta managed to give us an explanation taken up his sleeves, which is notable for being preposterous. According to Gary Whitta all copies of the Bible were burned by the survivors because they thought that particular book had been to blame for the end of civilization. Really? All the copies burned? "Including those who have in their remote cabin the Alaskan hunters? The one also the Chaplain keeps in his office at NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), whose facilities are designed to withstand a nuclear attack? It’s obvious Gary Whitta was so interested in giving The Book of Eli a religious background that earned him his illogical explanation. I must admit that Walker is a more interesting character by his devotion (some would say fanaticism), and unlike other action heroes whose personal ethics is never justified, Walker only seeks to keep the book secret. On the other hand, the idea that the Judeo-Christian tradition could disappear without a trace in just thirty years, to the extent that Solara doesn’t even know what the cross represents, is simply absurd. It would be much more likely those survivors of a nuclear war to decide that the problem was not an excess of faith but rather a fight for control of wealth resources by the superpowers.