A lonely man wanders the wilderness after an apocalyptic war. He is the last of his kind. He carries with him scriptures that are sealed and can only be read by those with special gifts. These scriptures are so valuable that an evil tyrant wants to get his hands on them.
(WARNING: SPOILERS COMING — IF YOU ARE GOING TO SEE THIS MOVIE, STOP READING UNLESS YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE).
The lonely man is a kind of prophet named Eli (Heb: “my God.”) who quotes scriptures. In the end, we learn he has completely memorized the King James Bible. He “translates” the Bible by dictating it to another man who writes it all down and prints it for future generations.
It’s easy to see some Mormon parallels in “The Book of Eli.”
I have not been able to find any evidence that the Mormon parallels are intentional, however. Several Mormon reviewers have noted the similarities between Eli’s story and the Book of Mormon. Note some here and here. I thought I’d add my brief thoughts on this movie, which I saw this week in my hotel room while traveling.
Some reviewers have called “The Book of Eli” kind of a combination of “The Road” and “Left Behind.” There’s an evangelical’s reverence of the Bible as something magical that permeates the movie. But there’s also a fair amount of violence and lots of unnecessary uses of the “F-word.” Pet peeve alert: this movie could have easily been PG-13 by cutting the cursing. The violence is no worse than “Lord of the Rings,” and there’s no sex or nudity. Why do directors feel like serious movies need to have R ratings?
Quick plot summary: The Eli of the movie is a lone wanderer (played by Denzel Washington) walking through a post-Apocalyptic wasteland. He gets in several battles and seems to have samurai-like abilities. He is carrying a book that he reads every night. It turns out the book is a Bible, perhaps the last one around because all of the Bibles were burned by angry people after the apocalypse. Eli wanders into a town controlled by a really bad guy (played by Gary Oldman) who wants to get his hands on the book because he wants to use the power of its words to control people. Most people have forgotten religion, and Oldman’s character sees it as an opiate of the masses, an opiate he can administer.
Much stylizing bloodshed ensues. Eli gets a follower. He finally escapes but Oldman steals the book, which turns out to be sealed with a lock and — surprise — is in braille, so Oldman can’t read it. Eli keeps on walking west until he get to San Francisco, where some survivors have set up a library as part of a future attempt to civilize the post-apocalyptic world. The Bible is an essential part of civilization, we learn, along with, of course, the Koran and the Torah. But not, noticeably, the Book of Mormon. Eli, it turns out, is blind and has been miraculously brought to the library, where he dictates the entire Bible to a scribe.
So, there are some interesting Book of Mormon parallels worth investigating. Again, I don’t think they are purposeful because there is little evidence the writers even know the Book of Mormon story.
“The Book of Eli” is worth seeing if you get a chance. Denzel Washington is a cool Moroni.