Review: The tattoos and black hats of Priest

Priest is a fun action film, but it’s not as dimensional as it thinks it is.

The film is based loosely on the comicbook by the same name, and also serves as an adaptation of an old John Wayne film.

It covers the tale of a dream-haunted, obsolete soldier from a long-over war with vampires, who finds his skills suddenly in need again, when his neice is kidnapped. 

The alternate world is an interesting one. In the world of Priest, mankind has been at war with vampires since the days of the crusades, at least, and this has tainted all of history.

The main governmental force for the entire world became the Catholic Church, as they were the only ones willing to fight the vampires.

The church’s “Priests” are a Shaolin-style order of martial combatants, who train specifically to fight and kill the stronger, faster vampires – depicted here as bestial humanoids with sunken eyeless faces.

The characters are a bit flat, but I didn’t expect all that much more. It’s a vampire movie after all. I was intrigued by the decision to keep the primary protagonist and antagonist unnamed throughout (even in the credits), giving a sort-of flair to their stand-off.

While most of the acting came off a bit one-dimensional, one actor did pull off his part well. Karl Urban (known for pulling out an excellent Dr McCoy in the new Star Trek film) showed his diversity in mastering the role of the film’s villain. I hope we get to see a lot more from him in the coming years.

In the same Vein, the resolution of the conflict is stoutly predictable. The story is fun, yes, but none of the outcomes are truly revealing, and none of the characters are truly dynamic.

Many scenes were melodramatic, and eye-rolling. Characters would say half-profound things and then turn away meaningfully, or protagonists would threaten each other’s lives so lightly, it’s a wonder they can ever work together at all.

That kind-of stuff. The fun of the film doesn’t suffer for it, but it does stand-out at times.

The fight scenes and effects were good, and the scenery is epic. There were lots of neat cross-themes toys for the protagonist to fight with, and seeing these rendered well during the slow-motion fight sequences was a large part of the visual appeal.

The world was a beautifully dystopian wasteland, with a dark and unfeeling city surrounded by a bright and uncaring desert. Occasionally, old, ruined skyscrapers can be seen in the distance, a clue to the world’s past – not that we need any clues after the animated exposition during the film’s overture.

The 3D in Priest is post-production, and you can tell. I usually don’t spring for 3D movies which weren’t filmed with a 3D camera, because it never seems to add much to the film, and sometimes even gives me a headache, but the marketing material for Priest assured us all that it wouldn’t feel like a tacked on 3D experience; that Priest would be different from all those crappy post-production 3D films.

With that, I felt a duty to give it a shot, and I was wrong to do so. The 3D felt exactly like it had been tacked on as an afterthought.

Overall, I would say that any fan of vampire hunting films and well-crafted fight scenes (Did you like Blade when it came out?) should head over to the theatre for Priest, but skip the 3D for this one.