Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Priest Movie Review

When you go to see a movie like Priest, you know what you're going to get. In the tradition of films like Underworld and Daybreakers, Priest exists only to deliver over-the-top supernatural action. But does it do a good job of it?

The plot of Priest, such as it is, deals with a war between humans and vampires that has been going on for thousands of years. The film takes place in the near future, when an order of priests has finally won the war against vampires and forced them to live in reservations. The vast majority of humans still live in walled cities, where their lives are completely controlled by the church. A few humans are trying to bring life back to the wilderness and have set up farms and towns beyond the cities' walls.

Naturally, the vampires are far from defeated, and an army of them starts to attack the outlying farms. One such farm belongs to the brother of a priest. The brother and his wife die, but their daughter is kidnapped, and the nearby town's sheriff (who is in love with the girl) goes to the priest to help him bring her back. If that's too much plot for you, don't worry. The movie will repeat the important elements often. And of course, you're not in it for the plot. You're in it for the action, and that gets started right off the bat.

The film starts with an excellent animated shot by Genndy Tartakovsky, the genius behind Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory, and the original Clone Wars cartoon. Later, the live action fight scenes are stylish and worth the ticket price. The priest does not use guns, but instead uses an arsenal of cross-themed throwing weapons and blades. The vampires themselves are very well designed, with no eyes and generous amounts of sloppy ooze dripping from their maws. The fight scenes use tons of slow motion to make sure the audience knows exactly how badass the priest is being at all times. The sheriff is along for the ride just so that the audience can see just how much more awesome the priest is in comparison.

The villain in the movie is played by Karl Urban. He is a former priest who has become a new breed of vampire. Karl Urban chews the scenery and looks like he's having a great time in every scene. It's strange that the one thing that seems to have been retained from the source manga is the look of the main character, which is sported in the movie by the villain. Exactly why the film's villain looks so much like the manga's hero is never really explained.

The romances in the film seem to have been added as an afterthought. The sheriff loves the girl who got kidnapped,  and there is a female priest who harbors a forbidden crush on the priest. I think that romance is a requirement for all movies these days, or otherwise I'm sure it would have been left out of Priest.

The movie is surprisingly short, and ends before wrapping things up. This is a shame, because it tanked pretty hard in theaters, so I think the chances of a sequel are slim.

The movie caught some flak for seemingly being anti-Catholic, but I have also heard people speculating that the film is actually pro-Catholic, deep down. The oppressed masses huddled in the cities and constantly subjected to church propaganda certainly seems to be against any church that wields political power. The slogan "To oppose the church is to oppose God" is chilling and does seem to be an assumption in many religious groups. However, there is a scene near the end where the priests decide that they serve God, not the church. This scene is the part that feels much more pro-Catholic. Personally, I figure it's a movie about priests who kill vampires with throwing stars shaped like crosses. Any statement that it may or may not be trying to make is irrelevant.

If you liked Underworld, Daybreakers, and the other vampiresploitation films that have come out recently, I would recommend renting Priest when it comes out on DVD. I think it's too late now to see it in theaters.

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