Monday, May 30, 2011


Spoiler alert-o-meter: Lots of spoilers ahead, but does it really matter?

Priest is another movie predicated on the latest fads in pop culture: graphic novels, 3D, and vampires. And other than some wasted opportunity, Priest plays like a cultural placeholder waiting for the next big thing. Not to say that it’s entirely bad, but where the movie takes you is not completely surprising if you have any experience with certain accepted cultural touchstones. Not being an expert on vampires, I can’t say for sure if Priest introduces new paradigms. Unless it's Cowboys & Vampires (much like the upcoming Cowboys & Aliens).

There are vampires that look human, and they can sort of go out in daylight. Then there are more monster-looking vampires that have no eyes and a mouthful of razor-like teeth who move faster than you. Then there’s, like, a mother vampire. If you happen to be a human killed by her you will become a sort of superhuman vampire, with superior strength. The nomenclature goes on.

If you read the graphic novel of Priest upon which the movie is based, then you would know how the movie opens. For viewers coming in cold, Priest The Movie opens with a handy animated sequence with a nifty voiceover that informs us about vampires taking over the country and these class of humans called priests infused with vampire-killing powers and they help contain the vampire break-out. After that, for some reason, Americans either live in dark, Blade-Runnery, Dark City-ish cities overseen by a religious society or they live in barren sundried landscapes that look like the American West.

Lots of set up here, and in terms of the movie, all for naught much. This nomenclature and mythology probably made a lot more sense in the graphic novel. For the movie, it’s just a set up on which to base the last half of the movie. Paul Bettany plays one of these priests (named Priest) who, after the vampires are contained, is given a menial job and shunned by society. Until evidence comes to light that vampires are back and stronger than ever. And this time it’s personal.

Priest heads outside the walls of the city in search of his niece, kidnapped by one of these new stronger breed of vampire. This part plays like a remake of The Searchers. In that movie, John Wayne's niece is kidnapped and he heads off to track the kidnappers. Here Priest rides a motorcycle (hey why not?) off into the bleached landscape, working with a young sheriff who is in love with the niece.

There are some nifty 3-D effects, but mostly the movie forgets all about the 3-D part after the first twenty minutes. The final third of the movie has Priest, the sheriff, and a beautiful young Priestess (Maggie Q) chasing a bullet train full of vampires through the desert. They plan to stop it before it reaches the city and unleashes all the eyeless vampires. Karl Urban plays Black Hat, the main baddie vampire who just can’t forget the time when he too was a priest and was left to die by Priest in a hive during the great vampire wars of, when, last year? Who can say? There’s very little context, and you just watch and nod and say, okay.

Full disclosure of ending: So, there’s the train blasting through the desert, the good priest against the bad priest/vampire and I thought, I’d like to see what happens when that train reaches the city. But, it was not to be. The train was stopped before that. And while that sequence was exciting-ish, it seemed like an anticlimax. Earlier in the movie, when the two priests and the sheriff come across an empty hive, well what fun is that? What if the hive was full? Of vampires?

It's another lost opportunity for the movie to spend some of that production value on something original and worthwhile. Priest makes promises it doesn’t quite keep, predicated on a set up that, to be honest, looked more fun than what ended up on screen. Read the graphic novel, and then watch this Priest if you just haven’t gotten enough.


Theater location: Lowell Showcase, Tuesday night, May 24th, 7:20 pm. Price: 6.00 bargain night! Viewed solo. Snack: Apple, chopped, bagged.

Coming Attractions:

Change Up. Ryan Reynolds is a single guy popular with the ladies, but tired of his lifestyle. Jason Bateman is a married guy with a couple kids, also tired of his lifestyle. After pissing in a magic fountain (seriously!) the two switch lives. It's an R-rated Freaky Friday rip off. But, this one has potential.

Columbiana. Zoe Saldana. "A young woman, after witnessing her parents' murder as a child in Bogota, grows up to be a stone-cold assassin."

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Brought to you by Guillermo del Toro. A big screen remake of a 1973 TV movie. With Katie Holmes and Guy Pierce.

Strawdogs. An apparent shot-by-shot recreation of Sam Peckinpaw's Strawdogs. All the violence and half the brains. Why do this? With James Marsden as the Dustin Hoffman character and Kate Bosworth as the Susan George character. Location switched from rural UK to the American South.

Transformers 3. This is the third or fourth variation I've seen in a trailer of this movie. It looks intense, and really, who can see all the details on screen when it moves so fast? Destruction of Manhattan, if that's your thing. Hopefully the good Transformers can (finally) stop the bad Transformers. Supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley replaces not so super model Megan Fox without any real change in the story line. Go figure.

X-Men 1st Class. An origins story, telling you how Professor X and Magneto met. If those names mean nothing to you, then maybe you should watch The King's Speech again. Takes place during the Cuban missile crisis.


Robin said...

Dell -- This is another great review. Truthfully, this is not a movie I want to see, but I appreciate your taking the time to see and report back to us.

Dell Smith said...

Thanks Robin. I see 'em so you don't have to.

Cynthia Sherrick said...

Yep, thanks for viewing and reviewing this one for us. Again not my cup of cappuccino. ;)
But there must an audience for this genre out there for them to bother spending the money and time....