Friday, May 06, 2011

First Impression: Priest

I must admit that I have never read the graphic novel that Priest is based on and so if the Scott Charles Stewart directed film varies greatly from that I am unaware. That, of course, also meant that I went in to the film with no baggage.

The film is set in an alternate world where vampires and humans have been at war for centuries – it’s also in 3D and I’ll get to that later in this article. After an introduction featuring the priests we get an animated section that gives us the vampire and human backstory. Now, I really liked this but, if you wanted to pull it apart you could wonder how humans developed from knights to a First World War era society, to having cities (we see the war ravaged remains in film) to the high tech, post-apocalyptic cyberpunk meets Wild West future. Surely, if the vampire nation was so powerful and such a threat… but you know what, to me that’s overthinking it and as such thoughts hit I manfully buried them and settled down for the ride.

For ride it is; from the permanent dark skies of the church controlled dystopian cities to the frontier towns that were "Western meets Mad Max" this rocketed along. Basic story, the Priests were highly skilled persons or maybe even folk possessed of special powers, who were conscripted into the clergy and trained to fight the vampires. The vampires are a different race, blind blood suckers who can infect humans and make them familiars – essentially slaves. The Priests defeated the vampires, and the few remaining live on guarded reservations, whilst the church decided its special weapon was too powerful, disbanded the order and put them into low manual labour roles.

Cam Gigandet as Hicks
Out in the wasteland Owen Pace (Stephen Moyer, True Blood and Ultraviolet) tries to make a living out of the blasted earth. His farmhouse is attacked by vampires. He hides his daughter, Lucy (Lily Collins), whilst he and his wife Shannon (Mädchen Amick) face the vampires. Shannon is killed, he is grievously injured and Lucy is taken. Her secret boyfriend, lawman Hicks (Cam Gigandet, Twilight), goes to the priest who is her Uncle, simply known as Priest (Paul Bettany), for help rescuing her. Priest in turn asks permission from the church to go after his niece but is refused as the vampire threat has been quelled. By going after her he becomes a renegade.

The film had moments owed to many a different film and genre. Mad Max has been mentioned, there was almost a Matrix element and the vampires, being eyeless, making hives out of sticky sputum and having a queen, brought to mind Alien (though the Alien series itself owes a debt to a couple of vampire sci-fi flicks, Queen of Blood and It! The Terror from Beyond Space.) Of course the alien didn’t have the weakness of burning in the sun. There is also a hive guardian – a giant, ‘guard-dog’ version of a vampire and 'something new', in the form of Black Hat (Karl Urban).

The vampires weren’t scary, the film itself only carries a UK 12a rating, but then it is an action film. They were, however, ferocious and carried a violence that was refreshing. The fact that they are rather animalistic helped.

The Priest and a familiar
As for the 3D… This was certainly not the state of the art Avatar standard, but it was much better than some (say Alice in Wonderland) and I wasn’t threatened with the infamous 3D headache. However, it really didn’t need to be in 3D and the film wouldn’t have suffered for being in good old 2D.

Overall verdict, I am sure there are going to be many who disagree but I thoroughly enjoyed Priest in a take the brain out action flick sort of way (ok, you could ponder on the dystopian view of Church rule but that was actually background rather than the main feast). The story wasn’t complex and it unashamedly left itself open for a series to follow. Gothic vampire fans may well baulk and teen vampire fans will weep over the idea that Cam Gigandet is in a vampire film with effective bloodsuckers. As for number 1 son, who came to the screening with me, he really enjoyed it too. A full review will follow the DVD release. The imdb page is here and the homepage is here.

Edit: Having rewatched this on DVD I have plumped to give it 6.5 out of 10.


Dauria said...

It seems to me, I'm going to enjoy this. Being a fan of Underworld and Blade series I've always appreciated action vampire movies somehow connected to religious motives. As it doesn't look like Twilight and Dracula 2000, it has all chances to appear in my collection. Btw,graphic novels have never been my cup of tea, but for their screen versions.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Dauria, this will go down well with Underworld/Blade fans I'd think.

It is a million miles from Dracula 2000 and Twilight :)

Dauria said...

Pleased to hear this! Looking forward to see this, as I have no other variants for the movies in 3d to see.
Good! Cause I cannot stand that "cullen-butler" stuff.))))

RoseOfTransylvania said...

Ahem, those dystopian wastelands... not my cuppa! P: But I have no idea what Twilight fans think!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

No, Rose, such harsh environs are not the lush gothic tapestry you prefer. :)

Anonymous said...

I refrained from reading this post until now since Priest opened a week later in the US than it did in the UK. I agree with you; I found it terrifically entertaining as well as stylish. I especially appreciated the unique mythos with the alternative history (shades of Perfect Creature and The Breed) and distinct vampire types. I also noticed the Alien echoes - but failed to bring it full circle to Alien's vampiric predecessors Queen of Blood and It! The Terror From Beyond Space. A nice bit of analysis!


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers for the post Halek. btw, picked up Blood a tale - looking forward to that.

Dauria said...

Hello again! I watched the Priest today and I must admit, that this movie is the best on the topic I've seen recently. Priest turned out to be much better than I expected, as it reminded me of Blade II, Underworld, Doomsday, and even Blade Runner - the movie I adore. On the one hand - the plot was rather trivial, nothing too special to be unexpected, but what a stylish manner, what colours, what lanscapes, and what music! As always - marvellous Christopher Young (Hellraiser forever). The story has it's Dracula and it's Ranfield, it's Van Helsing and it's Mina (or Lucy) - but high-tech version. It has a stuff to think about and stuff to watch - really love that.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Dauria - you're right, it had a lot of style... I thiunk it was a great movie for what it was, doing exactly what you'd expect and want from a sci-fi action film.

LoBo said...

I just saw this. I don't think it was as bad as many people have said. I have seen a lot of worse films than this.

I thing i didn't enjoy was the fast cutting of the action scenes. Especially the end battle. I wouldn't be suprised if people got dizzy watching them on a large screen or at the cinema.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Lobo, I wonder where the bad press came from... as you'll have read I enjoyed it as did those who commented before. Does what it says on the tin (didn't get dizzy watching it personally, btw, but know what you mean).

LoBo said...


I believe the reviews in newspapers and such is where it got a bad reputation.