Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Priest" - Snark Review

Dear god, and I thought the last one was bad.

As far as backstory goes, there's not a whole lot to tell. Priest is based off of the Korean Manhwa (Comic) of the same name, which from what I can tell was pretty much just an action series that incorporated bits and references to Western christian mythology. Essentially this film is a western interpretation of an eastern interpretation of western religion. I think it's safe to say that we're deep in Evangelion territory with the symbolism here.

I mention Neon Genesis Evangelion because it's a prime example of an Asian piece of fiction that had a habit of making references and allusions to Christianity without ever really getting into the actual theology of it, essentially just making references for the sake of seeming deep. This isn't necessarily a criticism of that practice, especially since American films  have been doing the same thing with eastern religion and philosophy for years. It's just something to note, as it can lead to some rather bizarre stories, such as the short lived manga Let's Bible where the descendent of St. Peter unknowingly attempts to molest Jesus, who has been reincarnated (!?) in the body of a scantily clad young woman, only to be attacked by the Great-Great-Grandson of Satan, who uses the powers of his enchanted mariachi guitar to summon a nuke, only to be defeated when Peter's descendent (named Vulcan) summons the Kraken to eat him.

That's right. There's the son of God.
Why do I bring this up? Because it's a far more interesting story than the pile of shit I actually get to review. At least that story has some sort of self awareness to it. Priest seems absolutely convinced that it's the most epic thing since Lord of the Rings, with absolutely none of the skill, prowess, or story telling to back it up.

The film starts out with a short prologue where we see a group of the titular Priests going through some tunnels, until the eventually reach an open chamber. Then we get our first bit of dialogue, and I immediately lose any hope that this pile of horse shit has any chance at entertaining. They literally stand there for a several seconds, then our main character, who never gets a name other than Priest says; "It is a Trap."

I WISH he was in here.
So then the group is ambushed by at bunch of what we later are told are vampires. But really, these thins have more in common with Aliens in their design than vampires. For some reason I have a hard time imagining this is what Bram Stoker was talking about.
Still, I'll even take Alien: Resurrection ripoffs over the alternative.
Then we cut to an animated prologue, explaining the origin of all this bullshit. Essentially, the humans and "vampires" have been at war for centuries in a battle for the world, which apparently turned the entire planet into a huge irradiated desert. The humans were losing the war, until the church took over and initiated the group known as the Priests, whose amazing ability to punch physics in the crotch with everything they do allowed them to destroy most of the vampires. Being a typical corrupt government, the church then disbanded the Priests and treated their war heroes like they didn't exist. I would say this is some allegory for present day politics, but that would mean the writers would have had to have put more effort into the story than "ZOMG EXPLOSIONS AND SLOW-MO!" so I doubt it.

The story itself is pretty cookie-cutter post-apocalypse stuff, but I will admit when a movie does something right, which in this case would be having Genndy Tatakovsky to do the animation for the prologue. It's easily the highlight of what is otherwise a train wreck of a film. At least somebody had the good sense to get the guy who made this:
and this:
So that not EVERYTHING in this pile of celluloid is unsalvagable.

Back at the plot however, things don't make much sense here. I can maybe understand the Priests being disbanded after the war is over. I imagine a war against fucking vampires would be rather costly, and with the threat apparently gone it doesn't make much sense to keep your fully equipped special ops team running indefinitely. The problem comes in making them a secret. I mean, what the hell? What purpose does that serve? Movie, if you're going to have a tyrannical theocracy be believable you have to MAKE. FUCKING. SENSE.

We then move on to a small, single cabin, in the middle of bum fuck nowhere. We meet a couple who have been living out there with their daughter, and we are told through extremely stilted dialogue that they've been out there for years, waiting for the soil to slowly lose it's radioactivity so they could actually plant something out there.

So wait, they've been living out in the middle of a barren wasteland long enough to raise a daughter into at LEAST her late teens, and they've been doing it in the slim hope that some time, eventually, the dirt will reach a point where it won't immediately kill anything planted in it? Um, what? Was this plan A?
"If we star here long enough, I'm sure this'll be a big, beautiful rainforest! Now drink your dirt honey."
They engage in some meaningless dialogue for a bit, and it's really pointless since everyone but the daughter will be dead within the next 10 minutes, because suddenly there's a horde of wild "vampires" outside, and they try to hide in the basement. Because I'm sure that wooden door will be more than enough to keep out the undead.
Predictably, they all end up dead except for the daughter, who's named Lucy, is the only one to survive, and she's taken away by the leader of the vampires, an apparently human man who according to wikipedia is named "Black Hat". I'm going by the wiki here because he is honestly never given an name during the entire movie. Great job establishing your characters, screenwriters.

We then cut to "Sector 12" which only serves to remind me of The Hunger Games, which isn't a good idea as I'm already rather ambivalent about that adaptation. Then we meet Priest, our protagonist who has the amazing ability to never inject even a modicum of emotion or personality into his performance. It's here we also see that the movie is not content to rip off elements from Judge Dredd and The Matrix, as we see video monitors of Church Leaders, constantly spewing out the importance of following the church. Hey, guys, I've been through High School, meaning I've read 1984 too. Don't try to regurgitate steak and tell me it's still good.

I'm honestly disappointed the Mon Signor didn't have a mustache.
Priest heads to his crappy rundown apartment, and on the way some little kid asks him why he has a Cross tattooed on his forehead and down his nose. His mother then tells him they "don't talk to Priests". Um, why? Weren't these the guys who straight up saved the whole fucking species from extinction and enslavement by Predator rejects? These guys should be constantly knee-deep in parades and handjobs! Is this really the way the world would treat war heroes just because some old guys in silly hats told them to?
Must. Obey.
At his home, Priest finds somebody who he apparently knows, who I THINK is given the name Hicks, but again the movie never makes this clear. Since he'll end up just being the sidekick who doesn't do much other than whine and waste air, I'm just gonna call him Alter Boy. Priest and Alter Boy, here to save the day! AB tells Priest that Lucy's missing and that her parents are dead, and apparently that's important to Priest for some reason. We eventually find out why, but for a bout 60 minutes we're left mostly in the dark about it. Anyway, Priest goes to the Church officials and asks to go out in pursuit of the vampires. They say no, as they don't want to acknowledge that vampires still remain.

If I may ask a question...WHY? What good could that possibly serve? This is the threat that very nearly destroyed humanity, and you're not going to investigate it? Listen, there's "corrupt" and then there's "STUPID AS A SACK OF SPECIAL NEEDS HAMMERS".

Priest decides he'll go anyway, and gets on his...*sigh*...gets on his jet-engine powered bike. Which he uses to go over 200 miles per hour on. With no damage to his face despite the fact that he wears no face mask or goggles. Have the film makers never ridden on a fucking motorcycle before? Or understand anything about basic human endurance. I know that this is an action movie, and thus there's going to be plenty of times where physics gets kicked in the nads, but there has to be more happening to somebody going 260 mph then just having the wind pick their coat up a bit.
...Is that the Bat-pod?
After a pointless and unnecessary montage of him riding his Jet-bike across barren, interchangeable bits of wasteland, Priest arrives at the remains of the cabin, meets back up with Alter Boy, and the 2 of them make their merry way to another city that's been taken over by vampires. Most likely because their leaders also dumbly decided that they should just ignore the still present monstrosities.

We then get to see what's happened with Lucy, who's being imprisoned on a train that belongs to Black Hat. She and Black Hat converse for a few seconds, "Blah blah Priest will come to save me" "Blah Blah I'm counting on it" and a few other lines that would easily fit into an episode of Superman. I'm more interested in the bizarre cinematography of this scene, where everything is put through some strange green filter. It really doesn't do much other than distract me from what little plot there is, and is a bit of a strain on the eyes.

Don't take movie making tips for Joel Schumacher
Anyway, it's established that the couple that died earlier is actually Priest's brother and Ex-girlfriend. I guess she liked to keep it in the family. There's also a scene where we see Priest making bullets for Alter Boy to fight the vampires with. How is he making them, you ask? By taking regular bullets and carving crosses into the front. I don't know enough about ballistics to tell if doing that would have a negative effect on the bullets' effectiveness, but I can say without a doubt that it IS stupid as all shit.

So what, does that mean that they can't kill vampires without being related to a cross in some way? If not, then there's no point in doing it except to waste time and needlessly tamper with your ammunition. If it DOES, then would that men you could essentially just draw a cross on anything to use as a weapon? Like just draw a crucifix on a nuke and drop it on the vampires' hives! Did I forget to mention that? Yeah, the vampires apparently make hives. They now officially have more in common with Bees than they do with actual vampires. Our pair of dressed up mannequins  heroes find they've made one underneath the abandoned city.

Next we get to meet these guys:
Huh-durrrrrrr.
That charming fellow right there is a "Familiar". In this universe they're what happens when a vampire attacks a human without killing them. I don't know what they all look like the horrible result of a one night stand between Gollum and Uncle Fester, but they are apparently enslaved to serve the vampires and protect them during the day. Our heroic duo kill some of them, kill some vampires, and then head off again. I'm so glad we needed this scene here, since it added SO MUCH to the story.

Speaking of story, we then cut back to the city, where the Church higher-ups are sending out 4 other priests in order to bring Priest back. I have to ask...WHY? Why are they willing to send out 4 people to get him back, rather than simply TAKING CARE OF THE VAMPIRES. Seriously, you'd rather exhaust resources in covering up the vampires than just GETTING RID OF THEM?
"This sounds like a good plan."
Also, I should probably mention that during that scene where Priest and Alter Boy (I so need to write a Comic Book called that some day) fought off vampires, Priest used Crucifix shaped shuriken.

Yeah.

The Dynamic Didactic Duo make their way to the nearby remains of a vampire hive, and descend into the depths of its various tunnels to see if they left any clues as to where the hoard is headed. Also I feel I should mention the caves look like the inside of somebody's rectum, and the two seem to, for all outward appearances, be giving the Rock Biter a rectal exam.
"Ya using the whole fist, Doc?"
They run into a female Priest who is again not given a name, but according to wikipedia (again) is named Priestess. I have to wonder if the film makers are all under the impression that your profession is your name. Was this written by Screenwriter, filmed by Camera Man, and starring Actor and Actress? Was it edited by Fucknut With Video Editting Software?

I'm getting off track. Priestess tells them that the 3 other Priests (I'm assuming they're named Canon Fodder, Dead Meat, and Corpse) have head to the town of Jericho to look for him, but she was the only one smart enough to figure out that the guy hunting vampires would probably go to the last place vampires were known to congregate, and that she wants to help him. Then they fight the "Hive Guardian" which is essentially just a larger version of the vamps we've already seen. It kind of looks like a poorly done CG version of Wildmutt from Ben 10.
Oh wait, they already did that. *Sigh*
Also, it's worth noting that the film then takes another chance to piss all over Physics' withered, marred corpse. There's a part where the Hive Guardian is up high, and Priest needs to jump up to get him. So Priestess throws a pair of rocks into the air, which he them jumps towards and then OFF OF, to get higher. THAT. CAN'T. HAPPEN.

AT ALL.

Jesus tap dancing christ, how did the film makers take this seriously at all?

Meanwhile Black Hat and his vampires attack Jericho, and also find and swiftly kill the 3 Priests. Big shocker there I must say. Something to note is that during the scene of the town being destroyed, the score starts randomly playing opera music and Black Hat swings his arms around like he's a music director. It was weird. Moving on.

The next morning Priest, Priestess and Alter Boy (They're only 1 more character away from forming a christian rock band!) arrive at Jericho to find everybody dead and most houses burned to the ground. They also find the 3 Priests' bodies crucified at the town center.
The priest begin talking about what they think the vampires are planing when it just occurred to me that there's a big problem with this whole setting. Where are they getting the wood for these houses? Like seriously, we haven't seen a single tree in this entire god damn world, and yet everything outside of the cities is made of wood. Hell, even Black Hat's train is made of wood! I know it's probably not that important in the long run, but they've spent a LOT of time emphasizing there's absolutely nothing in this entire landscape, and yet expect us to just accept there's an invisible yet highly resourceful lumber industry out there somewhere.

As I was saying, the 3 eventually figure out that the Nosferatu Express is headed for the city, and that they purposefully drew out the Priests in order to leave the city defenseless.

Wait. Does that mean there were only 5 Priests in that entire city? But then...what? What? Just. Ow. My Brain. Thoughts hurt. Owwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
Still more coherent than this movie.
They hatch a plan for Priestes to blow up the train while Priest and Alter Boy head into the the train and save Lucy. Now I guess I should mention that several times throughout the film that Priest plans to kill Lucy if she's been infected and turned into a Familiar. Alter Boy has said again and again that he can't support this, because apparently it's better for your loved ones to live on for years without any free will or personality than to simply let them die. This comes to a head as Alter Boy threatens to kill Priest if he still plans to kill Lucy, saying he doesn't have the right because he doesn't know her. Priestess then reveals that Lucy is Priest's daughter, and George Lucas prepares for a lawsuit.
"Best lawyer up, bitch."
I guess this is supposed to mean something, but I honestly don't care. They go to the train, Priest and Alter boy jump on, while Priestess rides ahead in order to prep the explosives up ahead. But things don't go as planned when Alter Boy has to make his way through the train car full of sleeping vampires. And the vampires appear to sleep inside strange, mucus cocoons for some reason. I guess they though Coffins would be too tacky. Priest runs into Black Hat who...appears to just have been standing on top of one of the train cars, waiting for Priest to eventually make it up there. Meanwhile, several familiars hop out of the train to pursue Priestess on motorbikes. And I'm pretty much required to use this joke:
Back at the train, Alter Boy is STILL sloooooooowwwwwwwwwwwlllllyyyyyyyyyyyy making his way through the Vampiric train car, which really seems like the type of place you'd want to get through quickly. Black Hat and Priest just sort of stand there for a bit before BH explains that he was on the mission we saw at the beginning with Priest and was captured by the vampires, who tortured him before the Queen (Apparently Vampires have queens now. Like I said, they're more like giant, grey, quadrupedal bees than vampires.) made him...drink her blood or something, it's not very clear. This turned him into a "Hybrid" of human and vampire, and apparently made him super strong.

After a fight scene that makes me think the Wachowski Brothers should team up with Lucas in suing these guys. Eventually they end up inside the train car with Lucy, and Alter Boy finally makes his way through a single train car. Black Hat kicks their asses, and reveals to Lucy the truth about her father. He actually says "He never told you, did he?" which is so close to Darth Vader that I swear they must have incriminating photos that are keeping Lucas from suing them to hell and back.
"I knew I shouldn't have video taped that Hookers and Blow party."
Alter Boy gets knocked off the train, yet somehow survives, and Priest gets knocked out and nailed to the wall with a knife. I would complain about this being impossible, but at this point I'm just praying for this to end soon. Meanwhile Priestess is setting up the explosives when the Familiars catch up to her. She kills them in a stupid, but thankfully short fight scene, and then discovers that the explosives wont work now because...they got knocked over? I don't even know at this point. So she decides the best course of action is to attach the TNT to her bike and drive headlong into an oncoming train.

Is everyone in this universe just really bad at planning?

Meanwhile Black Hat is up top again and about to infect Lucy, when Priest wakes up, climbs up top, and throws a knife into his throat. All in slow motion. This movie is barely long enough for a theatrical release as it is, and half of it is STILL slow-motion. To make a drawn-out scene shorter, Priestess jumps off the bike, Priest jumps off the train, Black Hat dies in the explosion, and Lucy and Alter Boy get together.
While this would be a good place to end this shit, the film makers decided to sequel bait us instead. Priest storms into the headquarters of the church in the middle of a sermon, take out a severed Vampire head, shows it to the people there, and tells them all that the Queen wasn't with the horde that they killed, and rides off on his super bike into the distance. Hopefully that sequel won't be made though, as Priest just barely managed to recoup its budget during its run in theaters, and I can't imagine the DVD sales will be much better.

And really, the whole damn thing is so boring and derivative of every other action movie in the last 20 years, that even if it wasn't poorly written, horribly acted, and chopped all to hell in the editing room in order to get a PG-13 rating, it still wouldn't be worth the effort of watching it. You'd be better off trying to find Underworld or something similar in a DVD bargain bin somewhere than trying to sit through this trite piece of phoned in horse vomit.

Final Score: 2/10

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