Welcome to part two of Comparative Exponential Religiosity Crap. If you haven’t read the first part, please start there. Now, on to part two!
Priest is a marginally better movie than Legion, but that’s not really saying much. It’s based on a Korean comic and takes place is an alternate universe where man was at war with vampires for centuries. The world is now controlled by the Church, who used vampire-killing warriors called Priests to kill most of the vampires and place the rest in reservations. Mankind lives in giant walled-off cities to protect them, and the Priests have since been disbanded.
One Priest, played by Paul Bettany, learns that his niece Lucy was kidnapped and his brother and his brother’s wife were killed by vampires. Priest (he doesn’t have a name in the movie, in the credits he’s listed simply as “Priest”) tries to get his authority reinstated by the Clergy, but they don’t believe his vampire story and refuse. Priest leaves the city anyway to rescue Lucy (who later SPOILER ALERT turns out to actually be his daughter) and the Clergy sends out three other Priests and a Priestess to bring him back.
That’s the movie in a nutshell. Priest soon discovers a vampire plot to attack the cities and fights to save mankind again and we all know how that goes. The movie ends with the implication of a sequel that will probably never happen, but I guess that’s okay.
It’s a pretty scattershot movie, but it’s certainly less pretentious and a hell of a lot more entertaining than Legion. And it’s only 87 minutes long, so at least it doesn’t overstay its welcome. There are also some pretty good action scenes, and the special effects are really not bad.
The creature designs in the movie aren’t terribly original, but at least they look pretty good and the creatures move pretty well. The special effects are pretty smooth and the creatures’ movements aren’t really jerky or anything, which is good.
And speaking of originality, this movie is VERY derivative. It borrows from at least half a dozen other movies. There’s some Blade Runner, some Indiana Jones, some Blade, and a LOT of Mad Max, just to name a few. It’s hard not to be reminded of all these other movies when watching Priest, which is never a good thing. Still, I thought it was still fairly entertaining and Paul Bettany once again makes the whole outlandish thing easier to swallow, despite looking like this:
The movie does have some interesting ideas, though. The city people live in really does look like something straight out of Blade Runner, but it still looks pretty cool. It’s portrayed as being completely under the control of the Church, although it is of course careful not to mention any specific denominations.
Another one of the movie’s big influences comes from stories like 1984 and V For Vendetta, because the city in Priest (called Cathedral City) is very Big Brother-ish. The leader of the Clergy (played by Christopher Plummer of all people) appears everywhere on giant billboards and video monitors, constantly reminding people that the Church protects them, and that “To go against the Church is to go against God.”
There are even automated confessional booths, where people go into a booth and speak into a microphone, and an image of the Clergy leader’s face appears on a screen. When Bettany’s character attempts to use one, he gets what sounds like a very robotic instruction to “say three Hail Marys and four Our Fathers.” These confessional booths turn what should be an intimate and meaningful act into something impersonal and essentially meaningless, with commands for prayers issued like a doctor prescribing a drug.
Vampires have always had a religious connection. Crosses have always been a big part of the imagery and lore of vampire stories, and the movie Priest does have an interesting take on what a world run by a totalitarian church could be like. I guess? Maybe I didn’t say that quite right.
Ultimately, the movie suffers from the same problem Legion does: germ of an interesting concept marred by lackluster execution. Still, Priest works marginally better than Legion does, and at least has a firmer grasp of what kind of movie it wants to be. It’s certainly scattershot and it wears its influences on its sleeve, but it is at least more consistent than Legion and I found it to be quite a bit more enjoyable.
As a mostly-unrelated side note, Priest is probably the goriest PG-13 rated movie I’ve ever seen. Seriously, this movie is gruesome. I have no earthly idea how a movie with this scene…
…could possibly be rated PG-13, but a harmless movie like The King’s Speech gets an R rating because of three or four F-words. Incomprehensible.
Anyway, there you have it. The two-part introduction to Comparative Exponential Religiosity Crap. There are actually quite a few movies that could fall into this category, so maybe some of them will show up sometime in the not-too-distant future.