14 November 2011

Movies: Priest

Priest (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0822847/

Fantasy Action Thriller Sci-Fi

Set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future, there was an ongoing war between vampires and humans over the span of history. Through the ages the vampires had the upper hand and humanity was barely hanging on using innovative technological advancement. Then the Church commissioned special battle Priests, super agile, quick and highly trained warriors that turned the tide, leading humanity to drive the few remaining vampires to reservations. By 'reservations' they mean prisons buried underground. With the vampires vanquished the Church decommissioned the Priests from their roles, ordered them to not speak to each other, and scattered them among the cities to fend for themselves.  The bulk of humanity lives in walled cities controlled by the Church, ensuring their protection. However some people choose to try to make a living in the wastelands, outside of the Church's political control. 
When a pack of vampires kill one particular Priest's brother and sister-in-law and kidnap his niece, he requests permission to retrieve her. The Church refuses to acknowledge vampires have organized and left the reservations and refuses to give him sanction to act, threatening excommunication and execution if he defies the Church. He strikes out to save her despite the warnings, teamed up with the Sheriff of the wasteland region she lived in to retrieve her.  When the Church finds out the Priest defied their orders, they recall four retired Priests and send them to retrieve him.

Stars Paul Bettany as the Priest. You may recall him as that creepy albino monk in "The Da Vinci Code". He was also the angel Michael in "Legion", and, incidentally, the voice of Jarvis in the Iron Man flicks. Karl Urban, Eomer in the "Lord of the Rings" flicks, awesome as Dr McCoy in the Star Trek reboot, the assassin Kirill sent after Jason Bourne in the "Supremacy" film, and generally great in any film he's cast in, plays a hybrid vampire/human and the antagonist to Bettany's protagonist. Maggie Q, of a few films and the new Nikita series, plays a Priestess. Appearances by Brad Dourif (awesome creepy guy actor); Stephen Moyer,  Bill fromTrue Blood but in a non-vampire role as the Priest's brother; Madchen Amick of "Twin Peaks" fame. You'd probably also recognize Christopher Plummer and possibly Alan Dale (Charles Widmore if you are a Lost fan, quite a bit of other stuff).

Based on a comic book series. I've never read the comic so I have no clue how true to the series the film is. At this point I don't care because as an uninitiated I thought the film was pretty good. Big budget action, effects, locations, settings, a mix of great cast members, and an interesting story.

Yes, it is another story that rewrites vampire lore. However the film does an awesome job of showing and telling you the history of the humans vs. vampires battles throughout the ages leading up the period of time the film is set in. As mentioned before, it is a dystopian future. Some of the technologies are beyond our current technologies, others not so much. Sort of a steampunk feel in some ways. There are nods to Orwell's '1984', Ayn Rand's 'Anthem', even "V for Vendetta" as far as the cities and the political/Church situation goes.  Basically the film does a great job of setting its stage for the show and stays true to that stage. Sure it rewrites vampire lore, but because they do such a good job up front of establishing that lore it works in the context of the film. Usually I complain about rewriting vampire lore, but it really works well here.  Lucky for us the vampires aren't emo, they don't sparkle. They are a vicious bloodthirsty species, although sunlight is still deadly to them. Which is the only reason humanity was able to exist for so long.

The film seems to draw together a lot of genres. Hints of Western coupled with Steampunk, Vampire horror, alternative history, sci-fi, dystopian future films. The core of the story, man recovers kin from the bad guys and goes against the establishment, isn't a new story, but how it is told and the world they build to tell the story in makes it fun.

So yes, if you haven't guessed, I liked the film and would recommend it. Definitely worth watching. Fills the Friday-night action film or the Saturday-night horror/sci-fi film slot equally well.


Spoiler Alert : Musings about the film story that might spoil it for you if you haven't already figured out how the film ends before watching it. If you've already seen it, or already figured out how it'll end, go ahead and keep reading.

Now - the vampires have assembled under their queen and are making a comeback, rebuilding their numbers and have made the first vampire/human hybrid, which promises to be a great counter to the Priest ability to kick vampire ass.  They've planned the major attack on the city, wiping out the little outposts in the wastelands along the way. No word about those attacks have reached the Church leadership, nor the masses of humans in the cities.
So I pose this question:  Why ruin the full frontal assault on the city from the train packed with vampires by drawing attention to their plans? Why kidnap the Priest's niece? If they hadn't done that, the Priest wouldn't have gotten involved, the train would have made it to the city undetected, the vampires would've gorged like ticks on the blood of the unprotected masses.  Vampires would've set up a new foothold and been able to amass for the next assault.  They may have been able to find and transform whatever few Priests were slumming about in the city, building up their own hybrid counter to the remaining Priests.
I know - there would've been no film otherwise. But sheesh - why do the 'bad guys' always telegraph their motives so clearly giving the 'good guys' opportunity to oppose them?  Similar to the 'bad guys' telling the captured 'good guys' their diabolical master plans before they try to kill them with some overly complex Rube Goldberg machine that the 'good guy' can escape from in the last few seconds. Hint to future bad guys: if you capture your opposition, don't tie him up and tell him your plans. Just shoot him in the head, be done with it and go on with your world domination.  Or, in the case of this film, don't stir up the hornet's nest before you attack it. Just burn the nest down before they know what hit them.

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