By Bryan Lufkin
Updated April 07, 2011 at 07:28 PM EDT

Sci-fi action-thrillers set in alternate realities often have baroque plots that don’t easily cram into three-minute trailers. In Priest (which opens May 13), Paul Bettany plays a discarded warrior who outlived his usefulness after the latest war against vampires ended. He returns to action, however, after the sustenance-seeking cretins kidnap his niece. This animated short breaks down the film’s mythology that sets up the plot line: “It’s a story about a dispossessed soldier,” Bettany tells EW. “Suddenly, he’s meaningful again.”

The prologue was created by animator Genndy Tartakovsky, who also worked on Cartoon Network’s Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack. It explains how Bettany’s character (known simply as “Priest”) served in an elite combat squadron that fought the vamps, but has since folded. “After the war, there’s no need for them. They’re sort of shunned,” Bettany says. Priest finds himself in “smelting work, in a foundry shoveling coal.”

Bettany adds, “In this world, there is no separation of church and state.” The animation mentions that the de jure head of church and government (Christopher Plummer) forbids his former soldier from rescuing the kidnapped girl. “He is my boss. It is a religious society,” Bettany says. Check out the prologue below:

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