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Comic-Con 2010

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Panel Report: Priest

Posted on Saturday July 24, 2010, 17:41 by James White in Comic-Con 2010
Panel Report: Priest

 Priest carries with it a certain amount of baggage in that it’s the second collaboration between director Scott Stewart and star Paul Bettany after the angelic/apocalyptic Legion, which was shown off to positive effect at last year’s Comic-Con but ended up a damp squib in reality and at the box office.

But when Stewart was introduced by Stu Levy, the head of Tokyopop comics (the company behind Priest’s hefty, sixteen-volume source material), the crowd was surprisingly positive. The pair were quick to cut the chat and get to the meat- some footage from the film, which is apparently in the middle of a months-long conversion to 3D. And yes, Stewart tried to convince us all that this won’t be another Clash of the Titans.

The teaser revealed the movie to be a rough cross between Mad Max’s dusty future and something out of Dark City. It looks like it could be fun – particularly when you watch Bettany and co-star Maggie Q kick arse. And the 3D actually did seem to be decent. Warrior priests battling beasts? Nice concept. Can it work in practice? Well, if you enjoy shruiken crucifixes and monster vamps with lightning reflexes, you should be happy.

Once the lights came back up, Stewart was quick to bring on his big guns – cast members Bettany, Q, Karl Urban (fast becoming a Hall H stalwart, and who probably would have gotten the biggest squeals if Cam Gigandet hadn’t been there and the Twilight crowd briefly rallied, probably happy to have some reason to shout at last since the franchise is absent this year), and Stephen Moyer.

What followed was peppered with decent comedy and some of the most obvious questions known to man from both the fans and the moderator (yes, they were asked about their training) form, drily commented that in fact he’d “been practicing mostly my beer and cheese skills” since shooting concluded. “Left unattended, my figure reverts to that of a reader.” Urban got to describe the fun he had as the villain, Blackhat: "I spend most of this film wreaking chaos in the wastelands.” And Gigandet mostly just looked handsome. Moyer got in a nice shot about playing Bettany’s “shorter, better looking brother”, a scientist estranged from his sibling who lives out in the wilderness.

Oh, and there were inevitable comparisons between vampires. Yawn.

But the undisputed highlight was the announcement that Clone Wars/Samurai Jack animation god Genndy Tartakovsky, had been asked to provide an animated prologue for the movie. On walked the man himself to explain, and detail his delight at working on something that doesn’t have to consider the kiddies when making it. “I was like, "Wow, we get to show decapitation and blood and violence," he said. "You take the shackles off and just for it." Stewart then introduced the work-in-progress prologue.

Tartakovsky’s bloody, and bloody fantastic work outlines the basic concept: Priest is set in a world where man and vampires (a separate species) have always been at war. The subterranean enemies have evolved into something more like the beasts of Alien that anything the Twilight crowd would recognize. Centuries of conflict have left the world ravaged, and mankind has retreated behind walled cities controlled by the church, which has largely taken over government, and also formed the Special Forces in terms of fang slaying. Not hundreds of heavily armed Buffy clones, but tough-as-nails warrior priests. But since the handy clergy largely vanquished the eyeless, yet extremely violent vamps, the Priest programme has been shut down and, like Vietnam vets, the warriors have tried to re-integrate into society.

Claret splashes, characters are torn apart and it’s all a lot of fun. But for Stewart’s sake, I hope it’s not the best part of the movie.

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