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Gary Whitta (#110 of 2)

Review: The Book of Eli

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Review: <em>The Book of Eli</em>
Review: <em>The Book of Eli</em>

There’s a reason why superheroes were originally dismissed as naive power fantasies for impotent men. Several, actually, but one in particular comes to mind: Superheroes represent and reflect ideals that society at large usually considers to be outmoded or outdated. When they save people, they (should) do it out of pure selflessness—a utilitarian sense of necessity that goes well beyond individual needs. Eli (Denzel Washington, armed with an omnipresent wince and a squint) in The Book of Eli is a lousy superhero because screenwriter Gary Whitta and directors Allen and Albert Hughes make him more of a necessary evil than a truly good guy. He’s born from a uniquely unsettling kind of cynicism, one that cloaks its misanthropy in the guise of holier-than-thou religious faith.

Eli is a compromised hero, one who assumes that, because the world is fallen, he’s better than everybody else (because God told him so). He has no obligation to immediately share his wealth of divine wisdom, and though his mission is in fact to spread the word of God, he does it in such a way that one can’t help but look askance at him. His faith is his strength, but it’s a selfish kind of faith, one that places the prophet and the medium that it’s communicated through before the essential lessons he’s guarding. Trust me: I’m a Jew. I know things.