We are in the middle of the decade of the comic book movie. Technically, this is based on a 16-issue series of graphic novels by Hyung Min-woo, but close enough. It’s almost exactly nothing like the comics, though, as far as I can tell. Shocker.

We are in the middle of the decade of the comic book movie. Technically, this is based on a 16-issue series of graphic novels by Hyung Min-woo, but close enough. It’s almost exactly nothing like the comics, though, as far as I can tell. Shocker.

For one thing, very few people in the movie have names. Paul Bettany (Legion) is the priest of the title — he isn’t the only priest, but he’s the only one who has any lines. There’s apparently only one priestess (Maggie Q, bad-girl Mai from Live Free or Die Hard), though, so calling her Priestess isn’t confusing.

The plot, though hinges around Kidnap Victim. I mean, around Lucy Pace (Lily Collins, The Blind Side). She’s lucky enough to have a first and last name, so to balance out the karmic scales she’s unlucky enough to become Kidnap Victim. I think her last name is pronounced Pace — I don’t remember anyone saying it out loud, actually. Maybe it’s pronounced ‘pach-ay’, as in the Latin for peace, as in rest in peace. I’m probably overthinking that.

The point is, Lucy and her parents are attacked by a roving herd of vampires and Lucy is kidnapped. As Lucy is quick to point out, however, her uncle is a Priest (the Priest, in this case), and in this world, priests aren’t what we think of as priests; they’re vampire hunters. They’re like regular priests also, I guess — they take vows of celibacy and dedicate their lives to the church — but mostly they hunt and kill vampires.

Vampires aren’t quite what we think of as vampires, either. They seem to be a different species. Though they like to drink blood, they have no eyes, and apparently you’re either born a vampire or you aren’t. The scary pale humans with sharp teeth and a thirst for blood are actually called Familiars, blood-slaves to the actual vampires — ghouls, in more traditional vampire terminology.

Vampires are also extinct, according to Monsignor Orelas. (He’s played by Christopher Plummer, who was the voice of 1 in 9. Sounds like I’m talking about either the Borg from Star Trek or The Prisoner, doesn’t it?) There is no more vampire menace! Pay no attention to that bloodsucker behind the airlock. The church, it seems, is in denial, and also probably jealous of the power and popularity of the priests. So clearly, Lucy is being held by bandits in the wastelands.

The Lawman (Cam Gigandet, Burlesque) doesn’t believe that, though, and he’s out to rescue her. Wait, the Lawman has a name, too, at least one name: Hicks. I assumed it was a last name, but maybe not, since his girlfriend calls him that, too. Bonus points if you can guess who said girlfriend is. Hicks is the sheriff of the small town out in the wastelands that Lucy disappeared from.

The kidnapper is Black Hat, and I don’t mean he’s a hacker. He’s played by Karl Urban, not acting very much like Bones from Star Trek — or much like William Cooper from Red, either, come to that. He makes a really good creepy vampire sort of person, I must say.

But clearly he isn’t real, since there are no such things as vampires anymore, save for a relatively few being held in reservations. (No one makes any claim that they’re nice reservations, so at least they’re not that hypocritical. They’re as nice as reservations ever are.) The priest, on the other hand, thinks they are real and sets out to rescue Lucy as well, with Hicks insisting on going with him. Since the church knows there aren’t any vampires, though, they gather up three other former priests (well, two priests and the aforementioned priestess) and send them off after the priest to tell him not to waste his time. Okay, really, they’re sent to kill him for breaking his vow and leaving the horrible, dark, smoggy city to go out into the wastelands.

I saw a headline for a review of this movie that said something about it being a “terrible pastiche of various western and sci-fi clichés”. Well, they’re right, it is, but I think they missed the point. I thought that was half the fun. They took a little Bladerunner, a little of any Clint Eastwood western you’d care to name, a little Aliens, a little Mad Max, a little Firefly — actually, rather a lot of Firefly, now that I think about it — added a good-sized portion of vampire legends, mixed well, and came up with a really great setting. I know it sounds like a horrible mishmash of stuff, but it all fits together and makes a totally believable world.

Three and three-quarters out of five. I was worried when it started out with an illustrated explanation of why the world was the way it was, since that’s sometimes a sign that they’re going to throw too much at you and you’ll be left floundering, trying to figure out what’s what. But not this time. Paul Bettany is a really good actor, for one thing — if anyone could have saved Legion, it would have been him — but even the people I didn’t recognize pulled their weight really well. Many of the actors here have mainly TV credits, which I why I didn’t recognize them. Just remember the church’s three favorite words — Faith, Work, Security — and you can go see this movie secure in the knowledge that the nonexistent vampires won’t get you.