The Bible is Full of Tropes. There. I said it.
The other night I was wrangled into watching The Book of Eli by my wife. She loves Denzel—hey, who doesn’t?—but she also loves this particular movie. “I know you think you’ll hate it, but you’ll like it, just give it a chance.” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this rationalization, I’d be having a lobster lunch right now instead of writing this.
Okay, first off, can we all agree the post-apocalyptic wasteland thing has been done to death? Fuckin’ A right, it has. From the Road Warrior on down, we’ve been pummeled with more wasteland movies than the Walk of Fame has stars. Let’s get past that obvious complaint, it’s too easy. And, to their credit, they didn’t do too bad of a job with the dystopian thing this time.
What struck me about this one, though, (other than the overworked color palate making the flic look two-toned,) was the hit-you-over-the-head symbolism from the Bible. It borrowed heavily and obviously. That’s okay, it’s about the Bible, or at least A Bible. However, from the noble, but compassionate, lead (he’s got a New Testament heart, but he’s not afraid to go Old Testament on your ass!) to the prostitute come femme fetale, to the reptilian Pontius Pilate-like villain, the storyline borrowed heavily from the greatest story ever told. As I watched and checked off the obligatory tropes on my trope list (Check all ten and win a free mid-feature nap!) I realized that it wasn’t only the movie that was weighed down by tropes, it was the fucking Bible.
Oh, come on. I know what you’re thinking: The Bible is the source so it isn’t really a trope. Nope, I see that book as the original sin: Polluting our world with the obvious and unoriginal. It’s long been suspected that the Bible is patched together with parables that were kicking around when it was assembled, a quilt of cautionary tales. The King James version in particular (the one chosen for the movie) is highly suspect when it comes to being an adaptation from the original. The flowery language contained within it was assembled by the scholars of King James’ time, not taken directly from the Hebrew translation. I mean, shit, they’re over fifty versions of the damn thing, why do they always pick this one? So they could inject some baseline familiarity, some stereotypes we could all get behind. Warring brothers, hookers with hearts of gold, unimpeachable mothers, Machiavellian Kings, it’s got ‘em all.
So, if you like your entertainment with heavy-handed religious overtones, Eli is out there. If you’re looking for something with a more direct lineage, you may want to wait and see The Son of God or Noah (they’ll be listed under “Dreary.”) Or, better yet, sit down and read. I hear the book is better than the movie. Just don’t tell me how it ends, ‘cause it’s still on my to-be-read list.