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Priest leaves prayers of comic book fans unanswered

By Tucker Clark
posted May 26, 2011

Lately, it seems that every single comic book or graphic novel adapted to a movie can become a multi-million dollar franchise after only the opening weekend. The latest attempt to jump aboard this bandwagon was made by Priest in 3D, a film directed by Scott Steward (Legion) and based on the acclaimed Korean graphic novel of the same name by Min-Woo Hyung. But is it too little too late? The six people in the theater on opening night indicate that the answer is yes.

Priest tells the story of an alternate earth where humans and vampires have been at war for all of recorded history. The vampires are four-legged, fanged beasts and nearly impossible to kill. They hunted humans to near extinction until the tables were turned by humanity’s ultimate weapon, the priests. The priests are superhuman warriors trained by the church. They possess the ability to kill the vampires with ease. With their help, the humans come out as victors. The vampires are now kept on reservations as humanity resides within gargantuan walled, steam punk-style cities that are ruled over by an extremely oppressive and tyrannical church.

With no further need of the priests, they are disbanded and forced to assimilate back into normal society. However, one of the priests, conveniently named Priest (Paul Bettany, Legion), has trouble fitting into the civilian role. While struggling with day-to-day life, he is approached by a man named Hicks (Cam Gigandet, Pandorum), the sheriff of a small outpost town in “the wasteland,” who claims that Priest’s sister was killed by vampires and that his niece was kidnapped. After the church leaders refuse to give him their blessings to go out and save her, Priest breaks his vows and escapes into the wasteland. It is soon discovered that a vampire army is massing and planning to attack the major human stronghold city. Then it is up to Priest, Hicks, and another cleverly named member, Priestess (Maggie Q, Balls of Fury) to save humanity.

Although this may sound like a bulletproof, Oscar-worthy story, the biggest problem with Priest is that its plot has more holes than Swiss cheese. Being the first film set in its universe, Priest needed a lot of time to explain the world and its history. Yet all viewers are given is a crudely animated cartoon at the beginning that gives a brief overview, which the creators apparently believed to be enough. But throughout the entire film, questions constantly arise and are never explained. This causes large portions of the movie to not make any sense at all. Confusing sections aside, the few parts that make sense are almost entirely bland and forgettable. The fights are rehashed scenes from other comic book movies, featuring the typical Matrix-style karate and slow-mo kill shots.

Also, none of the subtler aspects compliment the movie either. The music wasn’t noteworthy or even noticeable enough to be commented on and the cinematography could have been handled by any average Joe with a camera. But there must be some reason that the cost to see Priest is five dollars more than the average flick. Ah yes, the film is in stunning 3D! The only problem is that Priest suffers the same issues faced by every other 3D movie: it is completely unnoticeable for most of the film, save for a few moments when a bullet or knife flies at the audience, feeling real enough to give the impression that the extra five dollars thrown away on flimsy plastic glasses were justified.

Of course, Priest isn’t an absolutely worthless film; there are some redeeming qualities. The CGI is quite impressive, especially on the vampires. While it is no Avatar, for a smaller budget production the visuals are quite pleasing. Additionally, the fictional universe has potential. It has a genuinely intriguing history that could be easily expanded on. If possible sequels are handled by an entirely different group of people and much more effort is put into it, some very enjoyable films could be made.

So what is the final verdict on Priest? It is so identical to other sci-fi action movies and so uninventive, the result will be mediocre box office sales and an eventual drift into obscurity. If Priest is ever mentioned in the future, it will be followed by a question mark and a confused look because it does nothing to make itself stand out. Future sequels could be promising, but that remains to be seen. So unless $13 sounds like the right price for a nap like it did for half the audience on opening night, avoid Priest like a bloodthirsty vampire.

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