Priest 3D

Paul Bettany stars in this long-anticipated manga adaptation
Priest
Rating: Priest 3DPriest 3DPriest 3DPriest 3D

Directed by Scott Charles Stewart. Starring Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins, Brad Dourif, Stephen Moyer, Christopher Plummer, Alan Dale, Mädchen Amick, Jacob Hopkins, Dave Florek, Joel Polinsky. Written by Cory Goodman, from the graphic novel series by Min-Woo Hyung.

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At a scant 80 minutes minus credits, the best thing that can be said about Scott Stewart´s Priest is that it´s not quite long enough to offend. At least, not unless you´re a fan of the popular and beloved Korean manga by Min-Woo Hyung, which this is loosely – very loosely – based upon. Fans of the graphic novels looking for a faithful adaptation will be mightily disappointed.

And those 80 minutes are by no means fun: with the fate of the world hanging in the balance but little effort to involve the audience, Priest, mostly, lies limp on the screen. It´s at least tolerable, however, minus the excessive overindulgence that usually sinks this kind of movie (Sucker Punch, shudder), and plus a moderately interesting visual style (as long as we can make out what´s on the screen – see below).

In a post-apocalyptic Western steampunk future – an amalgamation of every futuristic setting from Mad Max to 1984 – Priest (Paul Bettany), a man with undefined superpowers and a cross tattooed from his forehead down his nose, guards the big city along with other clergymen like him under the religious powers in control. Representing those powers: an especially ominous Christopher Plummer.

The Priests guard against the threat of vampires, which has supposedly been eradicated after the great vampire war. The vampires here are mindless CGI monsters that screech and lunge out from the darkness, assisted by infected human slaves called Familiars, and led by the Priest-vampire hybrid Black Hat (Karl Urban), whom Priest failed to save years ago.

Black Hat plots a vampire revolt, and kidnaps Priest´s niece (Lily Collins) to draw him out of the city. Priest, along with young sheriff Hicks (Cam Gigandet) and fellow Priestess (Maggie Q), tracks down Black Hat to save his niece. That´s all there is here, no room for any extraneous subplots; Priest sticks to the basics like a good B-movie, only it isn´t quite good, or a B-movie.

This is a dark, dark film – not in terms of the comic book content, but the dimness of the projection: during night and indoor sequences, we really have to strain to make out the characters and objects on the screen. Daytime sequences aren´t a whole lot better, with overcast skies and sandy deserts washing everything out in a murky soymilk white.

Being presented in 3D doesn´t help, with the brightness of the projection taken down a few notches from 2D, and the glasses taking it down a few more. Another post-production conversion, the additional dimension doesn´t interfere with director Stewart´s style (long takes, slo-mo, little camera movement) as it has others, but it adds next to nothing to the cinematic experience. Outside of a higher ticket price.

In Prague, Priest is only screening in the 3D version. A 3D ticket at Palace Cinemas Slovanský dům (soon to be Cinema City) runs 219 CZK. Not screened for critics, I caught the film at an 18:00 opening night showing along with a solemn audience of 10-15. Outlook for Priest, which only barely qualifies as a movie: not so good. And not just in this country.

***

Also opening: Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop (showtimes), one of the best documentaries of 2010. I caught it last year on UK DVD and reviewed it here.


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