Priest 3D Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct 2.4:1 1080p 2D and 3D transfer and is Region Free.
Oh dear. We have another 2D to 3D convert on our hands and one, in my opinion, that should have been left well alone. Converted discs have yet to provide anything close to natural looking 3D and whilst the technology is improving all the time, I still don’t think it’s there yet. 3D relies on visual ‘tricks’ to fool the brain into seeing layers in an image, promoting depth and thus three dimensionality – to do this you need light, you need correct framing and you need objectivity, if any one of these aspects isn’t right then the brain isn’t fooled and the image is flat. Unfortunately Priest fails to address any of these aspects to any significant degree and the result is a near uniformly flat image, or something that a correctly set up system and top tear 2D Blu-ray release can replicate! I exaggerate a little, but not by much, I assure you. There has been very little thought gone into framing, i.e. positioning the camera to give maximum depth into the frame, such as low down with extreme foreground rolling back to middle and distance – and even when it does; such as aerial tracking shots looking down over huge rock formations fail to give any depth as the conversion simply isn’t good enough to extract the information our brains need to give the 3D image. Objects within the frame have little or no solidity to themselves, faces are flat, people are flat, and when positioned in two shots show little or no distance between them – there is no solidity to the layering and there is virtually no distance between them. And finally this is a very dark film, very dark, and trying to induce 3D with no reference point to give distance is on a hiding to nothing. I guess what I’m trying to say it that the 3D presentation is probably the flattest I’ve ever seen. In the one or two cases when it does look impressive, such a when the breeding cave is revealed, there is a reasonable sense of scale and space, but you immediately see it and it takes you out of the picture – 3D needs immersion, it has to be natural else your brain ‘sees’ it. There are some CG elements, such as the vampires themselves, that do have a reasonable sense of space, but they are in a pretty flat image thus all the illusion is lost. The best sequence of the film is the opening credits montage; this was a three dimensional comic book brought to life to tell the back-story of this particular world, and it works really well – but this just highlights how flat the rest of the film is in 3D.
Which is devastating because the rest of the picture is absolutely stunning. Detail is amazing, look at the close ups of Bettany’s face, hair and pore detail is exquisite, but equally the desiccation cracks of the scorched earth which are proud and defiant against the sandy colour of the ground. Clothing weaves are definable and eyes look suitably watery. Terrific stuff.
Colour wise, or what colour there is, is represented well, this is one of those films with plenty of post production colour grading, so it’s all blue and white. Colours are bold and strong, though not particularly vivid, but that is an artistic choice not a transfer defect.
Brightness and contrast are set to give near impenetrable blacks (with the usual 3D caveat), I’ve already mentioned that this film is dark, well I’ll state it again, this film is virtually black in places and correct set up is essential to get the most out of the shadow detail, any of the underground sequences, and indeed in the walled cities, where black threatens to swallow all, there is still plenty to see lurking beyond where you think shadow detail should stop, again terrific stuff.
Digitally there were no compression artefacts, no softening of the image, no edge enhancement, no banding or posterization. Using passive technology there was no cross talk and it was also free of aliasing.
As a 2D picture this would be reference all the way, but we are looking at the 3D image and in that respect it is severely lacking, so concessions have to be made and I am going for a 6.
I concentrate on the English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Well, whatever maybe lacking in the 3D is certainly made up for in the sound department, in what is a blisteringly good audio accompaniment; the perfect mix between score and effects with dialogue cutting a swath through everything to be heard clearly, precisely and sounding perfectly natural. At times the wind effects can come on strong from the surrounds and dialogue does struggle ever-so to be heard, but isn’t that how it would be in real life? Scores well with me. The surrounds are also used to excellent effect for providing ambience, the echoes and water drips in the hive are wonderfully realised. Stereo effects are precise and match the on screen action with aplomb. But over and above everything the mix is absolutely absorbing and fully immersive. Bass is crisp and direct, and there is plenty to rock the foundations, from weapon discharge, to chest thumping kicks to the grind of city life or the roar of the train; seldom does the bass go so low. In all this a fantastic mix, reference all the way.
- Weapons and Vehicle Exploration in 3D – exclusive to this 3D Blu-ray is your chance to view, in 3D, the weapons and vehicles used by Priest. Very gimmicky and the 3D is only ok, but it’s great to have something exclusive like this.
- Bullets and Crucifixes – is a picture-in-picture feature with windows the pop up during scenes of the film to further expand on the behind the scene thinking that went into them. Supplemented with cast and crew interviews as well as production footage, artwork and designs this is the one stop for all the behind the scenes material you need.
- Audio Commentary – director Scott Stewart is joined by writer Cory Goodman and actors Paul Bettany and Maggie Q for a chat that is amazingly light-hearted considering the how serious the film takes itself. Discussions on how the film faired critically, as well as plenty of technical issues and design decisions are dissected in a talk that does, unfortunately, replicate material found elsewhere but is equally an engaging and informative chat.
- The Bloody Frontier: Creating the World of Priest (12.49, HD) – a short featurette looking at the design concepts that went into the making the ‘retro-future’ world that is Priest. Cast and crew talk us through the challenges, or otherwise, of creating this alternate world as well as the creatures and people that populate it. It packs a lot into its short run time and comes off as a genuine look behind the camera rather than an ad for the film.
- Tools of the Trade: The Weapons and Vehicles of Priest (11.25, HD) – in much the same vein as the above feature this time concentrating on the hardware used through the film.
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (12.31, SD) – seven scenes (entitled Flashback #2: extended, Priestess Tells Hicks to Focus, The Whole Town, Black Hat Flashback: extended, Train Fight: extended, Priest Returns With a Head and Lucy Asks Priest to Stay) which add very little to the finished film and were presumably removed for pace, but at eighty seven minutes in total, was it worth it?
- 2D Version – the film but in 2D and a far better way to watch it
- BDLive & MovieIQ
For what is a low budget release and a film that was panned by the critics, this is an amazing selection of extra material with nothing more than you could ask for, except a little more depth in the features. Astonishing that a cheap release can be garnered with such affection, makes you wonder why other, more worthy films are treated so badly.
Priest is Scott Stewart’s take on Hyung Min-woo’s cult Korean comic book of the same name – but it is only the name as the story takes nothing from the original work, but instead revolves around a warrior priest living in a scorched world due to an age old battle between vampires and humans, who defies his vows and travels into the wilderness to rescue his kidnapped niece. What sounds like a great story is soiled by an extremely heavy reliance on already seen ideas and very clichéd dialogue – even though its style looks spectacular it is not really enough wash over the hackneyed plot, lack of characterisation and super quick pacing. There are plenty of good ideas hidden within the film, even though many of them have been seen before, but with a little thought and a little more time to explore the world, this could have been a great little film with even the potential for a franchise. As it is we are left with a critical mess, that whilst nowhere near as bad as many make out, certainly won’t have very many fans.
As a 3D Blu-ray set, Sony have gone all out to provide a spectacular package, the 3D is very plain and flat, and totally a function of a very naff conversion process, whilst the sound and extras package are reference all the way. Personally I don’t see this as a good advert for 3D, the film arguably looks better in its 2D form and that, therefore, makes this disc somewhat redundant. A shame.
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