For people who like their speculative worlds really bizarre, Priest certainly delivers. In this world, “vampires” have existed along side humans for all time, and they’ve been at perpetual war, all the way into a futuristic world of motorcycles that can go 300 mph and enormous Blade-Runner-esque cities. But these aren’t your regular vampires. They’re more like something out of Doom, a vaguely humanoid race of eyeless creatures that appear to be all id. They can infect humans, but that just turns the humans into a sort of crazy-eyed underclass, not really vampires, merely familiars.
So, we’ve got futuristic technology and vampires. But since the world is pretty much destroyed, it’s also post-apocalyptic, with endless deserts in every outside scene. And since living in the wastelands is hard and without conveniences, the settlers all look and feel like something out of a western.
But if you want yet one more genre to throw in, the supersoldiers who “eliminated” the vampire menace were all priests of the church, and now the church runs pretty much everything, 1984 style.
Man, that’s a lot of world building, and I haven’t even touched on the story. Paul Bettany is the nameless Priest who breaks with the order when a member of his family is captured by the vampires. (It’s never made entirely clear why Priest thinks little Lily isn’t already a familiar or vampire food. But he has to go out and start kicking all that CG ass, so he needs some motivation.) Maggie Q is the Priestess who seems to have a not entirely chaste interest in Priest and who also helps save the girl, and then, once the vampires’ plan is revealed, also saves the entire city.
Karl Urban plays a former priest who was transformed into… something new! He’s super evil even though he used to be Priest’s best friend. He’s the reason all this is happening, and… blah blah blah. The whole betrayal story is the least interesting part of the film. (For that story done well, go rent Goldeneye.)
The action sequences are exciting, the art direction is at times stunning, and the acting is fun, in a downbeat, morose sort of way. (One of the lines that really DIDN’T work was a joke. They should have stayed in grim, 24 mode for the whole film.) The story was a little thin, but at least I cared if the little girl lived or died, which is what they were going for.
If you saw the trailer and you thought it was cool, you’ll like the film. If, on the other hand, you thought it looked dumb, you’ll probably hate it.