The Good Book of Bad Movies

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If the Almighty were to put the fear of God back into some lawless desert wasteland stepped in sin, He wouldn't pussyfoot around with a damned Bible. He'd use a Qu'ran, you know, like He did the last time that happened.

The thing is, doing that with the Book of Eli would've probably done a better job of making the kind of publicity splash you're describing. The audience would have gone through the whole film thinking of the book as a Bible, only to have it unveiled at the end as a foreign religious text, and one that many of them will associate with an enemy in the present state of global politics. I'd go so far as to say that you might have fallen for it yourself Bob.

Strangely enough, I think this is the true fate of Religion. In creating some of the most apocalyptic scenarios known to mankind, it's become the ultimate apocalyptic genre; in the same way the Nazis are the ultimate bad guys.

Whatever message the original words of the Lord(s) have is being spouted by characters as fuel for their machismo.

And usually wrongly: Ezekiel 25:17 actually says "I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes; and they shall know that I am Yahweh, when I shall lay my vengeance on them." depending on which version you use. But nowhere does it mention the AK-47.

I'm confused guys, I've just read the wikipedia page about "Book of Eli" & I was wondering something cos I ain't seen it.
It sound like me a little like a religious riff on Zatoichi, although I've only seen the Takeshi Kitano remake, so I'm not sure if it's an homage.
For anyone who has seen it, was this intentional, or just seemingly coincidental?

crotalidian:
What really gets me is not people putting heavy pro-religious styles in films to make them sell. Much more I hate them removing negative pseudo-religious messages from established stories that could have made a kick ass trilogy of films (Read His Dark Materials/Golden Compass here) Dont know about anyone else but I fucking loved those books and have stoutly refused to see the film because all of the religious references were removed so fox news wouldnt give it bad press!

I felt pretty much the same way about them.

On one hand I hated the cop-out on the studio's part for removing the controversial stuff out of movies. On the other, I get that the amount of said controversy would be nigh-astronomical, much like MovieBob exemplified in his article.

... by the way, wh owas it really that made that self-censor call anyway?

thenamelessloser:
The creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion, an anime which uses TONS of Christian terms, even admits he uses the terms just because they SOUND COOL. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neon_Genesis_Evangelion_(anime)#Religion Yet people analyze the heck out of it, lol.

He probably tried to warn the poor people about all this masturbatory analysis because, quite frankly, it gets scary at times.

Now, just to stay on the topic, this Book of Eli gig possibly generated the funniest paragraph in a Roger Ebert review:

Roger Ebert:
It grips your attention, and then at the end throws in several WTF! Moments, which are a bonus. They make everything in the entire movie impossible and incomprehensible -- but, hey, WTF.

One of the thing that really amazed me at all the heat you got for your Book of Eli review Bob was just how many people were freaking out because you had said a movie with god in it was bad.

Reviews for Book of Eli were mostly negative (45% on Rotten)... are all those review bible-bashing atheist? I doubt that.

Tarkand:
One of the thing that really amazed me at all the heat you got for your Book of Eli review Bob was just how many people were freaking out because you had said a movie with god in it was bad.

Reviews for Book of Eli were mostly negative (45% on Rotten)... are all those review bible-bashing atheist? I doubt that.

It depends if those critiquing Bob were doing so because of the general thesis that "pro-God movie = good", or because they took offence to the fact Bob's original review attacked BoE, on the whole, because of its religious nature. If the latter, then their freak-out is understandable - they disliked what seemed bigotry and poor critical faculty to them. If the former, yes, it's mad, but that's only an indictment of general human mob feeling. Nothing specifically religious about it.

This, combined with your failed promise for a good movie (The godawful train-wreck of a movie known as Daybreakers), really makes me distrust MovieBob now...
I understand some people dislike religion, but reviews on movies like The Book of Eli (which I'll go on record as saying that I haven't seen yet), just prove that when faced with religion some people will just curl up, close their eyes, put their fingers in their ears and scream to drown anything else out.
I am sure he must have known that people will give him hell for his subtle bash on religion. The sad part is that many other people will toss respect his way for no reason other than this. (see two posts above to confirm my point)

Sounds like a solid concept of a movie if you ask me. The Bible is no doubt the most famous book of all time, and so, has instant recognition with the audience. If we was carrying his autobiography, the last copy of the DaVinci Code, or some arbitrary book that takes half the movie to explain its significance, no one would see any appeal for it, and think that the guy is a drooling lunatic. Many people think religion is the cause of all the worlds wars now, so the idea that people blame the apocalyptic war on christianity (and thus burning bibles) doesn't sound too far-fetched to me. This doesn't sound like lazy storytelling in the slightest. It sounds like good storytelling, designed to appeal to a broad range of people.

Now Daybreakers... that was lazy storytelling. Cliche badass with a crossbow? Evil Vampires who's origin is not explained? A twist at the end that I can only respond to with 'Oh well that's convenient'? Oh yes, this movie has it all... If this movie is the opposite of Twilight, maybe I need to go see Twilight, because it can't possibly be worse than Daybreakers...

Tarkand:
One of the thing that really amazed me at all the heat you got for your Book of Eli review Bob was just how many people were freaking out because you had said a movie with god in it was bad.

Reviews for Book of Eli were mostly negative (45% on Rotten)... are all those review bible-bashing atheist? I doubt that.

Hey, no one says that it was a good movie. In fact, it was most likely a bad movie. But people like you, jumping to the conclusion that we are leaping to defend the movie because God was in it, need to read the comments again. MovieBob's review of the movie was all focused on one aspect of the movie, and was in fact, a bad review. This has nothing to do with God.

I don't really care for The Passion of the Christ, but I can say that it isn't anti-Semitic. Saying that would be like saying all men are a bunch of murders assholes; see Scream, or that Friday the 13th thinks that all camp drowning victims are a bunch of machete murderers. Is Amistad is anti white male? Is every movie about the holocaust anti German? Is every romantic comedy anti brain? Just because a movie depicts a certain group perfuming torture and murder doesn't mean it's making a blanket statement against those people. Maybe I should bitch when there is a movie about the Spanish Inquisition as being anti catholic.

Zanez:

Hey, no one says that it was a good movie. In fact, it was most likely a bad movie. But people like you, jumping to the conclusion that we are leaping to defend the movie because God was in it, need to read the comments again. MovieBob's review of the movie was all focused on one aspect of the movie, and was in fact, a bad review. This has nothing to do with God.

I have read them the first time around and quite frankly it is people jumping to defend their faith which they think is being attacked.

The movie is a by the number apocalyptic film, it's only splash of originality is it's story. And it is very very very poorly handled and not even done in an original or surprising way. The action scene are poorly executed and boring, the acting is weak and one note. All of that is said in the review.

But here's the thing - this movie could have been saved by a good story or an interesting twist. And it wasn't. The story being poorly handled, made it worse.

It just so happen that the story being poorly handled has to do with God and the Bible. The Book of Eli is a good example that just adding a splash of divinity and angel dust to something doesn't make it good.

And people than totally flipped.

That is what I saw. Bob never attacked the faith, the ideology, the Good Book or anything in the review. All he said is that having those element hamfisted and tritly used made the movie worse... which is something that can be done with anything.

Shitflap:
I'm confused guys, I've just read the wikipedia page about "Book of Eli" & I was wondering something cos I ain't seen it.
It sound like me a little like a religious riff on Zatoichi, although I've only seen the Takeshi Kitano remake, so I'm not sure if it's an homage.
For anyone who has seen it, was this intentional, or just seemingly coincidental?

Zatoichi, now that was a good frickin' movie.

A bleach blond blind samurai masseuse kicking ass.

Tarkand:

I have read them the first time around and quite frankly it is people jumping to defend their faith which they think is being attacked.

People will attack things with religion in it, regardless of it's quality. DaVinci Code is a good example of this. It was attacked on all fronts from everyone (yes even Christians), and no one can deny, it is genuinely a quality piece of work.

People are not defending their faith, and i honestly see no attacks on their faith. The question is not Christianity, but Religion as a whole. Calling religion an example of lazy story telling is asinine, closed minded and an over-the-top generalization.

Tarkand:

It just so happen that the story being poorly handled has to do with God and the Bible. The Book of Eli is a good example that just adding a splash of divinity and angel dust to something doesn't make it good.

And people than totally flipped.

That is what I saw. Bob never attacked the faith, the ideology, the Good Book or anything in the review. All he said is that having those element hamfisted and tritly used made the movie worse... which is something that can be done with anything.

I have not seen the movie. But it sounds the me that the Bible and religion in general was not simply 'thrown in to make the movie good'. It sounds like that was the story and the underlying concept behind the entire movie.

Adding a 'splash' of ANYTHING is bad... ANYTHING must be cleverly proportioned, and thrown in in a well conceived and creative way in order for it to be plausible. Did you watch the movie 'Constantine', and say at the end: "Well the movie would have been better without the angel dust, and religious undertones that were splashed into it so people would think it was good.'
No. Take out the religious undertones and the 'angel dust' and you would be left with nothing. That is what the movie is about.
So, to me, it sounds like that is what The Book of Eli is all about.
You cannot say 'Apocalypse movie', and narrow it down to simply that. Behind every movie is a concept and a story, and you cant say 'Well without the story, it would have been better,' because then you would be left with nothing.

And to reaffirm my hatred for Daybreakers, Muscle Cars and Crossbows (both very cliche) were 'splashed in' to make the movie good. Apparently it works sometimes... cuz some people liked it...

At risk of sounding totally irrelevant: What if Bob reads your posts, but doesn't care? What if he's so secure in his set of personal standards and beliefs regarding movies that it doesn't really matter what you say? What if this entire forum is really microcosm that could describe God's relationship with the universe?

mrschultz:
At risk of sounding totally irrelevant: What if Bob reads your posts, but doesn't care? What if he's so secure in his set of personal standards and beliefs regarding movies that it doesn't really matter what you say? What if this entire forum is really microcosm that could describe God's relationship with the universe?

The answer to that one is simple. Then there is nothing we can do. If MovieBob is so secure with his movie standards, then more power to him to keep making these reviews and to keep cashing his paychecks. The reason I would come to these forums and respond to the reviews and articles that I feel are wrong, are not to educate him on what he is doing wrong, but to give other people a different opinion. Because after all, a review (movie, game, book, tractor) is an opinion, and simply that. Many people have the idea that because people like MovieBob get payed to state their opinions (most likely ONLY because they do it in an entertaining way), that that makes their opinions somehow more valid than any other opinions. It is important that people realize that reviewers, critics and people are just as vulnerable to bias, prejudice, and slanted opinions as we are, and sometimes more.

mrschultz:
At risk of sounding totally irrelevant: What if Bob reads your posts, but doesn't care? What if he's so secure in his set of personal standards and beliefs regarding movies that it doesn't really matter what you say? What if this entire forum is really microcosm that could describe God's relationship with the universe?

I followed the Eli posts and I don't think that at any point did he concede one bit. It seemed like he wouldn't even consider it. It was frustrating.
But I'm glad I read this because someone just mentioned Zatoichi and the comparison hadn't occurred to me.

MovieBob:
Playing through Bayonetta recently, I find myself wondering if the details of her being a witch at war with agents of God will make people take the game's batshit silly narrative as some kind of serious commentary on misogyny in patriarchal faiths. Will Darksiders face an outcry that never greeted God of War because its cartoonishly hypermasculine killing machine is drawn from The Book of Revelation rather than Olympian mythology? The answer to both, sadly, is "probably" - especially since Bayonetta is practically begging for it.

Practically?
From what I've seen of the game, Bayonetta is on it's hands and knees in a leather fetish suit and just handed you a chain-leash.
I think that goes well beyond simple "begging." I don't know that there's a strong enough word for what it's doing.[1]

Moving away from the distressingly specific mental imagery...

I find it very telling that two of the funniest comedies I've ever seen [2] have some aspect of Christian spirituality as their plot...and they play it for massive laughs with great success, whereas almost every single action movie I've ever seen with the same kind of spirituality has sucked massive pachyderm proboscis. [3] Telling, no?

[1] Bear in mind, I've only played a very little bit of the game, so I can't actually say that with any kind of real authority. Those statements are the result of my initial impressions of the game. Nothing more.
[2] Dogma and Blues Brothers, in case you were wondering.
[3] The exception being The DaVinci Code, which I enjoyed immensely, although the book was many, many times better.

I agree with Bob entirely. By far, the worst uses of Christian/religious elements is when it is inserted into anime to try and create some arbitrary symbolism. When you see characters in Death Note washing one anothers feet or raising their arms in a crucifix fashion, you can try all you like to spot a reason for this superfluous reference to Christianity. No need to however, because there isn't any. They literally stuck it in in the hopes that it may give the show an extra philosophical dimension, so it can brand itself as "intellectual" in the most shallow way imaginable. This can be extended to any show that pretends to be a philosophical heavy weight, like the Matrix sequels.

I don't see why people are getting worked up over Bob's review of Eli. They seem to be creating a straw argument out of it: "Bob doesn't like a movie because it is Christian". Bob made it clear: the film had a one-note premise, flat characters, a generic setting, preachy philosophy, and a poor excuse for a plot. Eli relies entirely on the concept that a character must do something "because God says so" and absolutely nothing else. This isn't a criticism of Christianity - it is a criticism of a lousy plot device that happens to be Christian. Bob tried to be fair and look for good qualities (he complimented the acting), but he could not find much more to say about such a basic story with such a trite premise. A fair and decent review, I say.

SaintWaldo:
Wait. Why would a story about an evil angel blow your mind? Isn't that what Satan's always been?

Actually, that's debatable. Don't want to spam and go into a long description here, but there's an theory that the modern image of Lucifer is based on a mistranslation in Isaiah. The morning star he's associated with is actually the king of Babylon. Just me being a history geek lol.

Pretty much spot on about the defensive nature of those that follow the same religion as shown in the movie.I'd call it almost 'knee-jerk' in nature.

"Mormon Vampire Abstinence Porn"

I'm, unfortunately, living in Utah and you could not have hit the nail on the head harder with that statement. Also, the shit that is let slide in this state is appalling. Utah has an AWFUL public education system and everyday middle and high school students are 'released' from PUBLIC SCHOOL CLASSES to go to Mormon run bullshit, brainwashing sessions they call 'seminary'. End Rant.

Once again excellent cultural commentary Bob, I would have to say that the use of religion as a short-cut to incite an emotional reaction is standard practice in all forms of media. People, especially Americans, are so indoctrinated with Christianity that it is sometimes hard to even understand why we have these reactions. Do I believe that people are innately Good or Evil or that the concept of Good and Evil even are relevant in my life? Not at all. Despite that and knowing full well that my actions aren't "good" or "evil", I still have a strong drive to "do the right thing" and "be a good person". This I would attribute, for good or ill, to exposure of the morality of Christianity through American culture.

I should have posted this during your previous review, but I was lazy about it. I'll agree that Book of Eli didn't look all that good from the previews. Hell, I figured it was most likely a Bible and the majority of the preview came off as being boring anyway, just some generic action movie with a seemingly boring back story.

As for faith movies in general, I guess I tend to avoid those. Maybe partially because I think religion (the organized part of it) is total bullshit and I'd rather waste my time breaking all ten commandments then have to put up with being involved in organized religion myself. I'm not saying faith in general is bad, but a lot of what I've experienced in a church setting is bland. The history of the religions isn't always too pleasant. Overall, not my thing. Probably why these movies don't stand out to me as being awesome in any way.

What do you think of Dogma then?

Ayrav:

Once again excellent cultural commentary Bob, I would have to say that the use of religion as a short-cut to incite an emotional reaction is standard practice in all forms of media. People, especially Americans, are so indoctrinated with Christianity that it is sometimes hard to even understand why we have these reactions. Do I believe that people are innately Good or Evil or that the concept of Good and Evil even are relevant in my life? Not at all. Despite that and knowing full well that my actions aren't "good" or "evil", I still have a strong drive to "do the right thing" and "be a good person". This I would attribute, for good or ill, to exposure of the morality of Christianity through American culture.

To reiterate: no, America is not a Christian country. It may be an imperialist state that has misappropriated a brand name and gutted it of its inherent meaning, filling it instead with greed, arrogance and self-righteousness (the antitheses of charity, humility and righteousness by the grace of God alone), but you can't pretend that's Christian. If I call my restaurant McDonald's, even down to the golden arches, and serve up prime cuts as burgers and value customer service and staff satisfaction, it doesn't make me McDonald's, it makes me a plagiarist and fraudster.

So the guy who made a name for himself as "The Game Overthinker" can rant for an entire episode on the relative merits of character design and women in gaming, but "Bayonetta"-- despite featuring a female character who's actually a CHARACTER, actively utilizing sexuality as a weapon/a rejection of the uber-masculinity worship of design/ a subversive parody of hypersexualized-but-bland heroines and the closest we've come to gaming's very own motherfucking Ellen Ripley-- pfft, TOTALLY not worth any controversy other than the sudden hilarious outcry about her proportions/design by people who seem to have completely forgotten the last decade of Team Ninja games or even fucking Jessica Rabbit. Besides, considering token anti-theism is as reflexive to Japanese media as popular series with girls drawn like they're under 8 years old, I can't imagine there are THAT many people genuinely pissed off about it.

Also that's a pretty good joke, acting like anyone will throw a hissy fit over Darksiders at all! Oh wait, you're serious. Huh.

Sylocat:

dead_rebel:
Here's the thing about Luc Besson's version, he leaves it up to interpretation. Was she chosen by God? Or was she a mad zealot who imagined the whole thing?

The same could be said for The Book of Eli albeit more subtle. Every action of "faith" he takes can either be explained away as "God used him" (which is the interpretation you're sticking to tooth and nail) or he is lucky/skilled/a hero.

Problem is, no one would ever be as lucky as he would have to be unless God were actively supporting him from the get-go. And when God is an active participant, wave bye-bye to dramatic tension.

Mr.Pandah:
Since when is throwing God into a story lazy? Since when is throwing anything into a story lazy? People turn into zombies because they were infected by a virus. Is that going to be considered lazy now too? Or how about the evil mastermind behind some grand scheme to rule the world? Is that considered lazy as well? I don't understand where this sense of "laziness" is coming from anymore, and frankly I'm quite tired of hearing about it.

I think "throwing" something into a story is not the same thing a PUTTING it in. "Throwing it in" implies not that it is an important element, but that it's tacked on, either as a cheap way to bring heat to a story that doesn't have any, or as a cheap way of getting around creating interesting characters. When your answer to every question about why we're supposed to root for this guy is "Because God told him to do what he's doing," that's the very definition of a Designated Hero. And while I admit there is a BIT more going on in The Book of Eli than just "He's the good guy because he's doing God's work and that's all there is to it you heathen," this article isn't just ABOUT that one movie. It's about how "It's about God" is used as a crutch in a zillion works of fiction out there.

Oh no, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Book of Eli was some stellar piece of apocalyptic mastery, but alls that I got out of his review was blah blah blah God is in it, therefore they couldn't have come up with anything better.

I also realize that his article doesn't just put the pin on Book of Eli, but many others. However, my point is that since when did God become some unusable piece of storytelling? There are plenty of movies out there where an otherworldly figure is used to progress the storyline. I honestly thought that God was placed very well into Book of Eli and it was tasteless of "MovieBob" to throw so much disdain towards it for the simple fact that he didn't approve of God's use.

Excellent article. I quite enjoy your reviews, but I hadn't had much of a chance to read your writing until now. Insightful and interesting. Thank you!

Mr.Pandah:

Sylocat:
snip

Oh no, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Book of Eli was some stellar piece of apocalyptic mastery, but alls that I got out of his review was blah blah blah God is in it, therefore they couldn't have come up with anything better.

I also realize that his article doesn't just put the pin on Book of Eli, but many others. However, my point is that since when did God become some unusable piece of storytelling? There are plenty of movies out there where an otherworldly figure is used to progress the storyline. I honestly thought that God was placed very well into Book of Eli and it was tasteless of "MovieBob" to throw so much disdain towards it for the simple fact that he didn't approve of God's use.

I'm glad we can reach some agreement. Yes, there are plenty of movies out there where an otherworldly figure is used to progress the storyline, and this can certainly include the Christian God. However, what I got from Bob's rant wasn't that he was bashing any movie that does that, but rather he was bashing movies that don't do it WELL.

To use God well, or to use ANY unrealistic (yeah, God may or may not be "realistic," but even if He is, I doubt anyone in the audience has ever had Him personally charge them and no one else with a monumentally important task) motivational element well, a story must have some more relatable elements on top of it. We have to have some reason for this character to be doing what he's doing other than "The Phlebotinum/McGuffin/Narrator-Insert-Deity requires it" for the movie to be anything other than a popcorn flick. And there's nothing wrong with popcorn flicks (I like my fair share of them), but when you're using God as the Phlebotinum, you don't want your film to be a popcorn flick, otherwise you're just making a mockery of whatever religion you're using (and I enjoy a fair share of religion-mockery as well, but not ones that take themselves as seriously as movies like Book of Eli do).

I read the entire article to myself in Keanu voice.

ZippyDSMlee:
Yikes are you still whining about book of eli bob???
:P

When videomakers write their follow-up articles, usually they involve some degree of, well, follow-up.

Ouch, Bob. Don't mention Halo around here. The fanboys will get all "Internet Tough Guy" on you.

Zanez:

The question is not Christianity, but Religion as a whole. Calling religion an example of lazy story telling is asinine, closed minded and an over-the-top generalization.

Hmm... just to be on the safe side here... who said it was? >_>

I have not seen the movie. But it sounds the me that the Bible and religion in general was not simply 'thrown in to make the movie good'. It sounds like that was the story and the underlying concept behind the entire movie.

Adding a 'splash' of ANYTHING is bad... ANYTHING must be cleverly proportioned, and thrown in in a well conceived and creative way in order for it to be plausible. Did you watch the movie 'Constantine', and say at the end: "Well the movie would have been better without the angel dust, and religious undertones that were splashed into it so people would think it was good.'
No. Take out the religious undertones and the 'angel dust' and you would be left with nothing. That is what the movie is about.
So, to me, it sounds like that is what The Book of Eli is all about.

The Book of Eli is a very uninspired apocalyptic flick that's trying to look deeper than it actually is by throwing religion around. It fails terribly at it and ends up looking stupid because of it. So yes, the movie actually having a religious overtone made it worse.

I pretty much agree with the rest of your post, adding a splash of anything usually won't make the movie work.

While I disagree with Bob's overall perspective on God & religion (specifically Christianity) I do agree that it's not worth anyone's time defending trashy b-rated movies like The Book of Eli.

Any film can use relgious imagery/commatations but that doesn't mean it's a religious film or one worth arguing about.

Dorian Cornelius Jasper:

ZippyDSMlee:
Yikes are you still whining about book of eli bob???
:P

When videomakers write their follow-up articles, usually they involve some degree of, well, follow-up.

yes but its not a bad movie :X

OwenEdwards:
Lord of the Rings is the other very obvious example of an evidently Christian story, written by a devout Christian. C.S. Lewis' science fiction trilogy is similar, and Chesterton's Father Brown and Peters' Cadfael both tie the faith of the detective and the situation closely together (cf especially Brown appealing to Flambeau to change his ways). Religious feeling has motivated some of the greatest poetry of all time - Donne, early Wordsworth, Browning, Eliot, to name but a few English language poets.

Just to be clear, although Tolkien was a devout christian The Lord of the Rings has nothing to do with christianity. If it has influence'd it, it is very little. The inspirations for the story were drawn from Celtic, Norse, and Germanic mythos. Tolkien himself expressed disdain at the allegory used in the writing of his colleague C.S. Lewis

OwenEdwards:
America is not a Christian country.

I'm talking about culture and media here. Sure greed, corruption, blah, blah, blah is inherent to any society, this however has NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. Christian morality is heavily portrayed in American media and is used, sometimes in nefarious ways, to evoke cheap or short-cut emotional responses.

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