Minor SPOILER warning
I wanted to see Priest at the cinema but was still reeling from Legion, the Paul Bettany starring angel and demon flop. Priest recently became available on Sky Movies so I recorded it and stared at it with suspicion on my planner for a while.
Tonight I decided to give it a go.
Priest is a Sci-fi/Western in a world where there are vampires and humans living in the same world. The vampires are a completely different species to humans and are alien looking beings with sharp teeth and no eyes. In a bid to fight the vampires, the church creates the Priests, humans with special powers and training. The Priests fought the vampires and won the war. Society no longer had a need for the Priests and they were forced to assimilate back into society in a world where they were no longer welcome.
Paul Bettany plays a Priest who is fighting to get his niece, kidnapped by vampires, back.
The first thing that peaked my interest in this film was the vampires. As a teenager I enjoyed the ‘teen vamp’. Buffy was my Bible. As I’ve grown up I’ve become tired of these vampires; Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries bore me. I’ve been there and I’ve seen it. It is original concepts, for example 40 Days of Night, that really hold my attention. Ideas that vampires are not just the sophisticated, charming killers that fall in love with some pouting woman. What I loved about the 40 Days of Night vampire and the Priest vampire is that they are a completely different species, although they may be humanoid.
The next thing that grabbed my attention in Priest was the world it is set in. A post-war society run by the church. I enjoyed the contrast between sin and faith and the differentiation between the church or organised religion and having belief and strength in faith. While it is a common thing in fantasy and science fiction for organised religion to be the bad guy, Priest still gave enough interesting theories to make the use of the church acceptable.
The Priests act as the medium between the normal person and the domineering church. They have total and complete belief and faith in God and to go against their vows is to go against the church, to go against God. To break their vows in the ultimate sacrifice. What Paul Bettany’s Priest throws up is the question of whether God is working through the church only or through those who believe in him and therefore to go against the church is not to go against God.
While the church is a pivotal character in Priest, the actual antagonist is played by Karl Urban. At first I thought that Karl Urban’s acting was a little wooden although he seems to loosen up as the film goes on. There is little I can say about Karl Urban’s character without giving away major spoilers.
I was at first very worried about Paul Bettany’s American accent but he is a fantastic actor and he plays it flawlessly. Karl Urban spends the film speaking with a low, husky voice and half way through Paul Bettany also picks this up. It made me wonder if both had watched Batman during filming.
This is a damsel in distress film and on principle this was the major flaw in Priest for me. There is a female Priest but even she gushes through most of the film. I would have preferred a stronger female character, and I think it’s a shame the female Priest couldn’t have fulfilled this. Paul Bettany’s niece does eventually show some bravery in character and the female Priest is still an energising character, so not all is lost.
Priest is not perfect but it is fast paced and fresh. I thoroughly enjoyed it as a quick, action/science fiction film that cleverly leaves questions and gives you food for thought if you’re hungry. If you like something different with your vampire, or science fiction/fantasy films, give it a go.