Y’all probably know by now that I’m super partial to sci-fi action films. I generally tend to gravitate toward them and think of them highly, despite some of their more obvious flaws. Similarly, I also tend to enjoy really bad movies. You know, the ones with cringeworthy dialogue, wooden acting, obviously fake stunts, weak plot points, etc. So when I heard of Priest, with numerous reviews panning it, I figured it was something I’d enjoy (LOL). When I finally got around to watching it, turns out, I didn’t enjoy it as much I’d hoped I would’ve. *insert sad face* That said, I’m gonna review it anyway and discuss some of the things I liked and disliked.
Simplistically, Priest is about holy supernatural warriors called ‘priests,’ battling vampires for control in an alternative reality. According to the movie, human kind and vampires had been vying for dominance. The vampires initially ruled, as their fast senses and movements made it easy for them to kill the humans quickly. Eventually, the humans began prevailing once the ‘priests’ stepped in. Trained with special powers (?) the priests were able to battle the vampires and wipe them out. The few remaining ones were put into reservations. As the vampires disappeared, so did the need for the priests. Fearing their power, the leaders of the church and cities (btw the church ended up taking control and people began living in walled cities under church rule), disbanded the priests and attempted to reintegrate them into society. As expected, it didn’t work and instead the priests became pariahs and struggled to find jobs.
With this background, the brother of one of the priests ended up getting attacked by vampires and his daughter (played by Lily Collins) taken. The priest (played by Paul Bettany) hears of this and goes to the leaders to ask permission to rescue the daughter/ his niece. The leaders refuse to believe that vampires are back and deny him permission, stating that if the priest attempted a rescue, they would disbar him from the religious order. The priest doesn’t listen and goes to save his niece anyway. Joining him on this mission, is the niece’s boyfriend, the sheriff of the wastelands (played by Cam Gigandet) and the priestess (played by Maggie Q), initially sent after him by the city leaders. The rest of the movie basically deals with the rescue with some other background characters and stories thrown in.
What I liked, is the following:
- The action scenes were decent. There were a few slo-mo scenes that were nice and some quick action scenes. That said, they definitely could’ve been improved upon (I felt timing of some of them was a little off and the camera angles could’ve been better, along with lightening being a tad too dark), but it was decent enough.
- I also enjoyed the new take on vampires presented in this movie. Most current vampire lore has them characterized as these human-like creatures who possess super-strength, speed, beauty and immortality. However, in this movie, they were literally beasts. They were weird creatures with human-ish bodies, but with no eyes and grey skin. In fact, this take was also twisted around to address the idea of current human-like vampires. The villain (played by Karl Urban), was actually the first human vampire as he had fed from the blood of the Vampire Queen. He possessed stereotypical vampire abilities, like super strength, never-aging, blood lust, and also new things like an ability to withstand sunlight. I just thought it was interesting to introduce different types of vampire characterizations in the same movie.
- The idea of warrior priests was also kinda interesting. Although, the underlying religious tones were slightly too much for me at times. I think they were added to heighten the drama, but it was just weird. I would’ve much preferred a more consistent theme, rather than have the movie introduce religious tones once in a while.
- I didn’t mind the little hints of romance between the priest and priestess. It was relatively subtle, especially compared to other things in the movie. I mean, could the movie have gone without it? Yeah, most definitely. It might’ve even made the movie better? But, I didn’t mind it. There was only a few hints of it shown so I thought it was fine.
- And finally, I liked the whole broad vampire plot-line, with the niece being bait for the priest and the idea of a vampire train. I thought it was interesting. Not the best, but interesting enough.
Reading back on my list, even the positives are littered with critiques (LOL). Surprisingly, even with these critiques, my list of what I didn’t enjoy is still longer. For the sake of length, I won’t make a bullet list, but I’ll just list a few things in a simple paragraph (or two).
Firstly, I HATED the reveal that the niece was actually the daughter of the priest. It was too cliche for me and I much preferred it earlier when it seemed like the priest was just going after a niece. On that note, I really disliked how the priest’s backstory played out. I would’ve much rather had him be a childhood love of Shannon who was recruited as a child vs. the adult recruit. I just felt like it cheapened his character, rather than elevate it as the movie hoped to. I also was not a fan of Cam Gigandet’s acting, or maybe it was the character. I just found most of his scenes so grating and with nothing really important to add. He was a typical side-kick character, but the attempt to make him more interesting by threatening the priest was annoying and backfired for me.
Similarly, I hated how the movie tried to add in so many different things. Instead of focusing on a singular, over-arching theme, it attempted to patch together different themes. The result was a mis-matched thematic tone with insufficient attention paid to the cohesiveness of the movie. For example, the whole battle between the priest and the vampires took on the themes of: a) a man realizing that his power comes from God and not the Church b) a man struggling with forgetting his love and attempting to get back his daughter c) a man trying to find his place in the world. Not the mention the fact that the movie also seemingly touches on the concept of blind obedience vs. true devotion to God. There’s just so much going on at once and nothing ever really reaches the point of completion or even gets fleshed out slightly. Additionally, the pace of the movie also varies. Sometimes its a slick action flick, while at other times, it drags on. Literally, the characters just sit and talk in a desert wasteland a couple of times. It just gets annoying to watch and attempt to focus upon. In fact, on that note, I also thought the movie, while it did have an interesting over-arching plot-line (the niece bait + vampire train), doesn’t really go anywhere or do it justice. It kinda just gets forgotten. I mean, to be clear, the plot *does* get resolved near the end. But the way it resolves is so unsatisfying that it felt like it didn’t really amount to much (i.e. reach its potential). Plus, I didn’t find the directing to be that amazing or great. It just felt so standard and typical to me — with nothing new to add or talk about. On the whole, I felt like the whole movie needed to be revamped and edited better.
My rating: you can skip it, there’s other better “so bad, it’s good” movies out there.