Friday, May 13, 2011
Priest (Movie Review)
Based on an imported Japanese comic book, Priest takes place in a distopian future in which humans live in walled away cities built and run by “the church”(a Christian entity with a Catholic vibe) to be protected from the vampires out in the wilderness. The Priests are men and women trained and empowered supernaturally to hunt and kill vampires, although their order has been disbanded for years because the vampires were supposedly wiped out. But when word arrives to one Priest that his niece has been captured by vampires, he acts against direct orders from the church in order to rescue her, making himself a target of both vampires and Priests who remain loyal to the church.
The story is brought to life mainly by Paul Bettany, who plays the title role, Karl Urban, an ex-priest turned vampire, Cam Gigandet, the niece’s boyfriend, Hicks, who initiates the rescue mission, and Maggie Q, another priest who also serves as love interest to Bettany’s character.
Despite having some familiar faces with excellent track records in acting, none of the characters proved compelling to me. The Priests were too stoic and Hicks never seemed to be genuinely distraught over his girlfriend’s predicament. When Bettany’s character made the decision to go against the church, a real opportunity was missed to make that sacrifice mean something to him. As it was, he didn’t seem all that torn over it.
Likewise, none of the characters seem afraid of the vampires. Just determined to destroy them. And since the vampires were obviously CGI creations, a lack of obvious fear in the main cast only acted as a one-two punch against me ever being really concerned or on edge during the movie.
The vampires do have a cool look to them, however. Unlike traditional vampires, these look more like rabid aliens. Their skin is slimy and gray, their fangs are large and they have no eyes. A very cool take on the vampire concept.
The action is also pretty cool, with some over the top Matrix-inspired shots that are fun to watch, even if it feels like we’ve seen them done a little better before.
The visual design is a big part of the movie. A cross between “The Book Of Eli” and “Judge Dredd”. I wouldn’t mind spending more time in this world, and given the ending it seems that’s what producers are hoping will happen.
The movie offers some good opportunities for conversation about organized religion. A main slogan of the church in this movie is “to go against the church is to go against God”, to which Priest replies at one point “then I go against God.” Yet he still clearly holds onto his faith on some level. Later in the movie, Maggie Q’s character tries to comfort and encourage him by saying “our power doesn’t come from the church, it comes from God”.
Today it is very popular to be “spiritual” but be “against organized religion”. Even a number of Christians feel this way. When it comes to the connection between God and organized religion, we tend to fall into one of two extremes. 1. See the organized church as synonymous with God and develop a corrupted view of God as a result. 2. See the organized church as obsolete and resolve to maintain whatever “faith” we have independent of others. (Which also tends to result in a distorted view of God.)
The Biblical view is that the church (meaning the entire group of people in the world who are genuinely Christians) is vital for our growth, despite the fact that it is made up of flawed individuals, and that we should continue to meet together and be “organized” so that we can share our strengths and help each other grow.
Priest is a cool genre flick (that could have been much more memorable, involving and polished) that also provides some great opportunity to think about the role of “organized religion”.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and brief strong language.
Listen to this review this weekend at- spiritblade.net/podcast