The ‘Priest’ Trailer: Bad CGI and Ugly Vampires

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  The ‘Priest’ Trailer: Bad CGI and Ugly Vampires

PriestBad CGI is rampant in the film industry. Why? Because good CGI is not an easy thing to do. Not by a long shot. And even if the CGI is good, an effect that looks cutting edge today is bound to look positively primitive in a few years’ time. It’s for those two reasons that I often find myself willing to accept less-than-stellar computer generated imagery if it is in service of a film that is at least strong enough enough to communicate what the filmmaker was trying to do and not necessarily what they could do. But even though I’m willing to overlook a movie whose creativity is in the right place but whose budget isn’t, even a bad-CGI apologist like me has to put their foot down from time to time.

Priest is one of those times. It’s the newest film from Legion director Scott Stewart, an adaptation of a Korean comic set in a dystopic future, about a priest who is trying to track down the gang of vampires who dared to kidnap his niece. Sure, with a plot like that, it’s not exactly begging to be taken seriously, but if you’ve seen the trailer for the film that emerged out of Comic-Con this past weekend, then you’ll know exactly why I’m bringing it up as an example of when even I can’t stand bad CGI. I admire that their concept of vampires is not the normal build used these days. Their bloodsuckers aren’t misunderstood heartthrobs who brood about the human woman they wish they could be with. No, Priest’s vampires look barely human at all. Sadly, they also look like crap.

More specifically, the vampires in Priest look like they could have been cobbled together from the CGI scraps leftover from I am Legend. I wasn’t a particularly big fan of that film to begin with, though that had more to do with it being a piss-poor adaptation of a landmark short story than anything else. I would have been willing to forgive how unambitious the script was if the creatures in it weren’t texture-less, soulless, CGI facsimiles of people. It was impossible for me to look past the film’s other flaws because I flat out just did not want to look at the film whenever its sole threat was on screen. I cringed every time one of those absurd vampires came out of the shadows and, from the looks of the trailer, I’ll be having that problem all over again.

I Am LegendMy problem doesn’t rest solely with the CGI, however. It’s pretty clear that even though Priest doesn’t look all that phenomenal, it looks like Avatar compared to, say, a Syfy channel movie. However, the bigger problem is with the intent. If a filmmaker knows they don’t necessarily have the budget to show off some of their more complicated effects, then they should simply find ways to not show them. The CGI in Frank Darabont’s The Mist is pretty poor, but it’s much more serviceable because Darabont knew to keep it either partially obscured or off screen whenever he could. Stewart, on the other hand, has the star of his movie, Paul Bettany, lunging at one of the groan-inducing digital beasts in the final shot in the trailer. At least hide how silly your movie is for the time being.

Obviously it’s not fair to lay down final judgement on a film based on its trailer alone. The quality of the CGI could improve before the film enters theaters in spring of 2011, but that’s being hopeful. The more realistic scenario is that it will look barely any different than it does right now; and as it stands right now, it just looks cheesy in the worst of ways. I hope I’m wrong. I love the post-apocalyptic genre and am thus always up for watching a badass wander the wastelands (and it looks like Stewart’s film has plenty of wastelands and wandering), I just wish that badass wasn’t wandering toward special effects that look dated before the movie even comes out.