I'm Batman...no wait...
When a movie is adapted from a well-known book or comic, there are certain scenes that we all expect to appear. Peter Parker getting bitten by a radioactive spider, Bruce Wayne seeing his parents killed, and an infant Kal-El being shot into space. These are all iconic characters with iconic stories. When a movie is made from a lesser-known comic book or graphic novel, its hard to know what to expect or even know if the movie is being true to the source material.
Priest is based off a Korean graphic novel of the same name. Starring Paul Bettany (Legion, The Da Vinci Code) as the title character, the world is thrown into a battle between humans and vampires. The vampires are close to winning a war that has devastated the planet, until the arrival of the Priests, humans blessed by God capable of killing vampires. With the vampires defeated, the world becomes a theocracy, ruled by the Church. The vampires eventually return, kidnapping the niece of Priest who gives chase along with her boyfriend Hicks (Cam Gigandet, Twilight, Burlesque). They scour the landscape fighting vampires and are eventually joined by Priestess. They realize that they have been set up and must race back to their city before a train full of vampires devour everyone. Who came up with this diabolical plan, why did they kidnap a relative of Priest, and what does it have to do with his past?
Part horror, part western, part sc-fi, and part steampunk, Priest feels like wants to be a bunch of other movies. It feels like a mish-mash of Mad Max, Underworld, Shane, Batman and Aliens. The movie is full of your typical horror/sci-fi cliches, but it's main focus is talking of religion and authority. Priest is all about the heavy Christian (and anti-Church) overtones and imagery. The falling crucifixes, people dying in a Jesus pose, and crucifixions. It's laid on so thick that you feel like Jesus is about to smack you with a cross. I mean, if this movie was any less subtle, it would just be called "Religion!" Subtlety works best in these situations, but there is nothing subtle about this movie.
The action scenes are over the top, which is fine because the movie is based on a comic book. It's sleek and stylish, but lacking in a lot of substance. The vampires themselves have a unique style and look very good. The story is fine, but the dialogue and acting are painful at times. It feels like lines were written with the intention of being “cool” but you just end up rolling your eyes. The execution of the action, though, just comes off poorly. Each action scene goes into slo-mo, practically saying “We're slowing everything down so you can see how awesome we are!” A lot of the movie involves the characters speeding through the desert on futuristic motorcycles. Why bother killing vampires with knives and blades when you clearly have advanced technology?
Have you heard the good news? He has risen... and wants your blood!
I've never read the Priest comic book, so maybe I missed a lot of subtle things only fans of the book would understand. That still shouldn't stop me from enjoying the movie, though. A cliched story, painful dialogue with mediocre acting and over the top religious commentary makes Priest a difficult watch. Some fun action sequences and a great opening animated scene keep you interested in the hopes that something great will happen. It is up to you to decide if that occurs, but for me, Priest was almost as painful and boring as being in Sunday school.