Jul 22, 2010

The High Road

I recently saw a couple of post-apocalyptic films that hit theaters around the same time last year. The Road and The Book of Eli.  They say Hollywood is cyclical, and the fact that these two similarly-themed films were released so close to each other is a testament to that.  Like the current spate of vampire flicks/TV shows.  These things come in bunches.

Now, I'm a fan of the genre. The Road Warrior, Escape From New York, The Omega Man, and The Blood of Heroes (or Salute of the Jugger in the UK...either way it's an incredibly underrated film).  All genre flicks dealing with some kind of apocalypse, whether it be zombies or war or crime.  Whatever. The exact nature of the apocalypse doesn't really matter.  It's all about the struggle for survival.  So with that in mind, I was pretty excited to see both flicks.  Not "go see them in the theater" excited, but excited nonetheless. 

The Road did a lot of things right.  The viewer isn't told what happened before.  About what happened to the planet or the nation or whatever.  There are glimpses in the form of flashbacks, but those have more to do with setting the tone and explaining the single-minded nature of the protagonist of the film.  No names are used.  The man is credited as "Man", his son is credited as "Boy".  No names are needed.  Whatever happened to the planet has done away with such niceties.

It's a bleak and disheartening portrayal of the descent of mankind into the most basic animal from which we came.  Yet it's also filled with hope.  It's all that these characters can cling to.  The man is doing everything that he can possibly do to survive.  To help his son survive.  They need to keep moving.  Maybe there is life further south, further east, further.  And even with that hope...it's depressing as all hell.  It's interesting and well-done, but it's really just numbingly depressing.

The Book of Eli was a much more polished Hollywood-type production.  Bigger stars, bigger budget and much bigger action sequences.  In this film, we are told what happened to the world.  It was war and it was complete destruction.  "The Flash" burned a whole in the atmosphere and left humanity at the mercy of the Sun.  We are led to believe that it was a religious war, and the film itself is loaded with religious references, as you could probably tell from the title.  It's religion that helped wipe us out, it will be religion that will help us rebuild.  I'm not sure I liked that theme, but if you buy the premise yadda yadda yadda.

Denzel's Eli is a compelling central figure.  A lone warrior (with a bad-ass sword/machete) following the word of God westward to a place where he can share his faith with those who deserve it.  Gary Oldman is  your stereotypical post-apocalyptic warlord with a few intellectual flourishes.  In a lot of ways, The Book of Eli felt more like an old Western than a post-apoc flick.  Especially once Oldman's character and frontier town entered the picture. At that point, the whole film turned into a bit of a derivative mess.  An enjoyable one, but still a derivative mess.

So I have a hard time picking which film I enjoyed more.  I thought about The Road for much longer after it was over than The Book of Eli, but it was just so bleak, so disturbing that it lessened my enjoyment while actually watching it.  And The Book of Eli was almost fun in comparison, in a bleak and disturbing kinda way.  Does that make any sense?

Let's say that The Road had a better story and may have been a better film, but The Book of Eli offered a more enjoyable viewing experience.  Deal?


___________________________________________________
Note: Remember to play the Badgerdaddy Trivia Challenge every day. What's the plural of apocalypse?  Apocalypsi?

20 comments:

Poppy said...

One was about religion and keeping it alive (Eli) and one was about the abandonment of religion after it failed the world (The Road), in my humblest of opinions.

The Road made me cryyyyyyyyyy, Eli did not. The Road made me think much harder about my life circumstances, and what I would do in that situation, whereas Eli was less present and personal for me.

And I really enjoy that Charlize Theron played such a fucked up character after "the apocalypse" in The Road. It's the performance I knew she was capable of after seeing her in Devil's Advocate.

Mrs. Hall said...

um, I watched the first 35 minutes of 'species' the other night, then we realized, it was "Species 4" THAT MOVIE SUCKED. lessened my enjoyment the longer I watched.

THEN, last night, we watched "Porkies" because "it's a classic"-per Mr. Hall.

I dare say, Porkies was more enjoyable. Still very muted and maybe I needed to be drunk so it would be funnier.

either way. good compare/contrast with the post today. the first film made me depressed just reading it!

:)

Slyde said...

Eli is written by an aquaintance of mine, Gary Whitta. He's also writing the movie version of Akira.


ive got both of these on my netflix queue... as soon as im done with the Wire...

B.E. Earl said...

Poppy - I didn't get the abandonment of religion in The Road. Especially the part about it failing the world. Maybe I missed that part. I thought it was more about the one spark of hope (the Boy) in a world of crushing despair. And Charlize Theron was pretty good in it. Agreed.

Holly - Don't worry. All the Species films sucked. At least the first one had Natasha Henstridge getting freaky nekkid.

B.E. Earl said...

Slyde - An acquaintance of yours? Was it back when he was editor of PC Gamer magazine? Or did you meet at a Pride parade?

Slyde said...

both

badgerdaddy said...

I can't help but think a movie of Akira will suck donkey bumhole.

B.E. Earl said...

Slyde - that's what I thought.

badg - I dunno. I thought the original anime film was a little murky and confusing. Maybe I need to give it another viewing, but I don't necessarily think it was a perfect adaptation of the manga. Left a lot out. Had to, really. I actually got bored with the manga and stopped reading it after a couple of collected volumes.

Heff said...

I haven't seen ANY of these :(

B.E. Earl said...

Heff - Both were good, but The Book of Eli was more...enjoyable? I guess?

Paticus said...

Haven't seen Eli yet(next from Netflix, after we watch "Youth In Revolt". I did see "The Road"(and I am just about to start reading the book), and I must say that I did not see as much hope in the movie as you did. I thought there was that moment at the very end, but before that, it didn't seem to me that they were really moving towards anything, he was just moving because they couldn't stay in one place. Maybe that says more about me,though.

B.E. Earl said...

Paticus - Yeah, I was grasping to what little the film was offering. I saw some hope in the Man's single-minded effort in keeping his Boy safe. Other than that it was chock full of despair.

Bruce said...

I am interested enough to add 'Eli' to my Netflix cue....that is about it. If nothing else Gary Oldman is going to be worth watching.

If you want something totally out of the ordinary, check out 'Wisconsin Death Trip' in Netflix documentaries. Repressed scandinavians in northern Wisconsin around the turn of the century, is not a pretty thing.

B.E. Earl said...

Bruce - I'll check it out. Gia loves documentaries like that. But Gay Oldman won't impress you in this. Think a more intellectual version of Dennis Hopper in Waterworld. Yeah.

Kevin Spencer said...

I'm a bit of a Gary Oldman fan but I must admit I haven't seen Book Of Eli yet. Added to Netflix queue.

B.E. Earl said...

Kevin - He's almost always better than his material.

Kat said...

I didn't like Eli. For 2 reasons. First of all I started out liking it but then hated how it was so quickly and so neatly tied at the end. My piano teacher always said that the most important parts of any piece are the beginning and the end. If you can nail that then the audience will be more forgiving of any mishaps in the middle. I not only agree but think her theory applies well to many other scenarios.

And I don't appreciate Mila Kunis's dramatic acting. Unfortunately that fact only doubled how bad the end was for me with her Angelina-tomb-raideresque-Jolie heroin-ism.
barf.
totally disappointing.

Poppy said...

It was a fiery Hell apocalypse out the window.

No god saved anyone. It's every man for himself.

Avitable said...

I haven't seen The Road yet, but I thought Book of Eli was interesting. The ending stumped me - there was no way that he was actually blind, was there?

B.E. Earl said...

Adam - Yeah, that got me too. But I re-watched a few scenes and they hid it well. Lots of hints. Him keeping the sunglasses on indoors or not putting them on right away outside. Him smelling his attackers first. Talking about how faith was guiding him, rather than sight. Stuff like that. A very good surprise ending, I thought.