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Films for 10-year olds: Priest (2011) ** February 27, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , trackback

Whats the old saying? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or something like that? From The Searchers to Blade Runner to The Matrix, you could play a drinking game watching this film (knock back a drink at every ‘homage’) and be blind drunk before you are halfway through. In this post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, in an alternate world ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires, Paul Brettany stars as the titular Priest who defies the all-powerful ruling Church in order to save his niece, who has been captured by Indians, sorry, a rogue Vampire horde. The Priest ventures beyond the giant walls of Mega-City One, ahem, sorry, Cathedral City, on his Lawmaster, sorry, electric speed bike and ventures into the blasted, war-torn ruins of the Cursed Earth, sorry desert wasteland and…  

If you’ve never read 2000AD (particularly the Judge Dredd strip), or watched Blade Runner, or THX:1138, and if you never saw or heard of the tv series Firefly or it’s movie spin-off Serenity, or watched a certain  John Wayne flick, you might well watch this film without being persistently distracted by a sense of deja-vu. However, if you’ve seen any of those films, or Dark City or The Matrix, or several others, then you may find yourself yelling foul at the screen a few times or reaching for the remote in disgust. Or if you’re playing my suggested drinking game, find yourself utterly pissed in no time at all.

Director (and I use that term loosely) Scott Charles Stewart is the guy responsible for the truly awful Legion, which I attempted to review here on my blog last year- I say attempted, as words failed me regards truly describing the horror of the experience. The news that Stewart was actually working on a second feature was… well, I was pretty shocked, frankly. But lets be fair here; Priest is in no way as bad as his execrable first feature. There. I’ve said it.

And if we point the blame at it’s borrowings and ‘homages’ towards the scriptwriter and the graphic novel it’s based on, well, Stewart almost gets away with it. It’s fairly well shot, using the widescreen frame to mimic the style of Leone westerns, with low angles and wide landscapes, huge skies. Its got a few decent fx shots that mimic the cityscapes of Blade Runner, complete with shafts of light splitting the frame and giant projections impeaching the masses below that walk through crowded streets of rain and steam with umbrellas and…. It’s got confession booths for said masses to repent to heedless pre-recorded voices as in THX:1138. It’s got huge citywalls straight out of the Judge Dredd comic, with the bikes to match speeding through the Cursed Earth landscape… wait, stop. I’m playing that bloody game again. I may be too drunk to finish this soon.

Alas, where Stewart loses it is his repeated inability to shoot an action scene without it descending into videogame nonsense, or his inability to ditch utterly cringeworthy dialogue from the shooting script and thus spare his thespians from looking like idiots who’d sell their souls for any gig (if stupidity were an artform, some of these films would be in the Louvre or replace Shakespeare in schools). Couple that with a merciful, albeit suspiciously short running time of something like 87 minutes (thats something like $700,000 a minute, budget-wise, but I guess thats where the producer gets the blame rather than Stewart) and it’s over before you think. Indeed it really is over before you expect, as I’m not sure it’s actually got a finale. I kept expecting something to happen, something to happen, something to happen… and yet bam, there’s the credits.

Still, nowhere near as awful as Legion, and I have to admit, I almost rather enjoyed it… well, I did, sort of. Well, here’s the thing: it’s a comic. A lot of films are comics, these days. Thing is, comics aren’t films. Comics have lots of cool imagery and action, but films, well, they are supposed to have characters and motivation and emotional arcs and empathy and an intelligence and wit beyond that of what a ten-year old thinks is fab. But frankly, most films these days don’t, they are just comics for ten-year olds. Hell, even the once-violent ‘adult-action’ films are being edited down to PG-13. It’s like the ten year old American kid is the epitome of what Hollywood is crafting its films toward. So we get films like this.

Not utterly awful, but close.  

I will say this though- if the film has one redeeming feature, it’s the simply magnificent score by Christopher Young. It’s a really impressive soundtrack that sounds like its from a different movie entirely. And yet in another demonstration of how messed up our modern world is, the soundtrack is not available on CD anywhere, just a download on itunes or on-demand CD-R at Amazon.com; what the hell is going on with the music industry these days? I’m getting too old for this; I remember the good old days of John Williams’ Superman: The Movie on double lp. Back when you could pick up pretty much any soundtrack on vinyl. These days so many great soundtracks never get released at all. World’s gone mad.


1. badblokebob - February 28, 2012

I happened to watch both Priest and Legion recently and pretty much agree. Priest ends with the most blatant setup for a sequel ever, not so much a hint as a great big “to be continued”. I don’t imagine that’ll be happening.

As to soundtracks, I always feel like there’s more available than there used to be — every (major, at least) film seems to have an accompanying score CD now, rather than the collection-of-barely-related-songs soundtracks of yesteryear. But I’m probably comparing to a different time (late ’90s/early ’00s), and maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places even then — these days anything released can be found thanks to Amazon, rather than the whims of the local HMV or what-have-you. And while I wholeheartedly agree that a real CD is better than download or burn-on-demand, I’m also of the opinion that some kind of release is at least better than none at all.

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