“Beast” is directed by Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Everest) and stars Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, The Suicide Squad), Iyana Halley (Abbott Elementary, This is Us), Leah Jeffries (Rel, Empire), and Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District 9). This film follows a father his two teenage daughters who spend time together in the Savanna. Unfortunately, their explorative adventure becomes a survival mission when they come to face with a killer lion who will stop at nothing to hunt them down.
I have seen the trailer for “Beast” numerous times in the theater, part of which is due to Comcast’s outright domination in the theatrical market right now. After all, their primary film distribution outlet, Universal, is responsible for some of the more attractive films of the summer like “The Black Phone” and “Nope.” Despite seeing the trailer, I cannot claim that I was particularly stoked for the film. Granted I was not dreading it, I would say I was just indifferent. For the record, I like Idris Elba. He has evidently been on fire recently. Elba starred in my favorite live-action film of the last year, “The Suicide Squad.” He also recently voiced Knuckles in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” which is not quite as good as its predecessor. Despite what I just said, Elba was the highlight of that film to me. His voice was perfect for the character. Elba is full of charisma in almost anything he does, so while “Beast” was never at the top my list of films to see, I went in with some positive curiosity.
What did I think of “Beast?” Well, I would not say it has replay value, but it is also certainly not the worst man vs. nature film of the year. “Beast” is the kind of film I would probably watch in a hotel room when I have trouble deciding what to watch and need to put something on so I can fall asleep at night. It is entertaining, but it comes with its flaws, most notably the characters.
There are worse characters in other movies, and the ones in “Beast” are not exactly insufferable. But the roster of characters in this film feel like a roster conceived by Michael Bay in some summer blockbuster that has forced corny humor. I imagine on paper, these characters were well written, if I read their dialogue or motivations on a page, I would buy into them and appreciate what I see. But when it comes to the screen, not everything translated properly.
While this movie does not shine in terms of characterization, the same cannot be said for the way this film looks and sounds. Some of the shots of the Savanna landscape do look presentable. And every time the lion roars in the film, it does feel rather terrifying. It is weird to think, but as far as creature-based films go, this movie is perhaps scarier than the last couple “Jurassic World” installments. I think this is because “Beast,” while its primary focus is on a lion, not dinosaurs, has more in common with the “Jurassic Park” movies at the franchise’s inception, when it was more about making the creatures a specialty. They were a threat, and like other threats, they showed their true colors, but they were not overexposed. Unlike most of the “Jurassic Park” movies, “Beast” focuses on one lion the entire time and lets its human characters, who are unfortunately not that interesting, but still more interesting than Owen and Claire in “Jurassic World,” take as much of the spotlight as they can muster.
It is crazy to think that this movie is from Universal Pictures, because they also released the “Jurassic Park” movies. And based on “Beast” being better than the most recent “Jurassic Park” installment, I would not mind seeing a “Beast” simulator ride at Universal Studios in the future.
There really is not much to this movie other than the fact that the main family has to find a way to survive to the end. That’s really it. If you are coming into “Beast” and expect a Shakespearean drama where a family deals with conflict amongst themselves that will resonate for the ages, then look elsewhere. If anything, “Beast” reminded me of “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which I admittedly enjoyed to a greater capacity and would actually watch a couple more times, but still.
The reason “Beast” reminded me of “Godzilla vs. Kong” is because if you are looking for epic creatures doing epic creature stuff, then that is an A+ movie. The characters, while not horribly offensive, are kind of dumb, unmemorable, and despite their quirks, they do not steal the spotlight from the from the monsters themselves. Yes, the star power of Idris Elba was definitely evident. Kind of like the star power of Millie Bobby Brown in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but Elba’s star power did not erase the attention I had for the lion. Partially because despite the limited characterization, Elba was competently directed and he played his part well. He is not going to win an Oscar for this movie, and as far as summer movies go, he churned out a better performance in “Pacific Rim,” but he gave a good encapsulation.
I have a strong feeling that if Idris Elba were not the star of this film, “Beast” would have probably never gone to theaters. Maybe it could play for a limited run in Los Angeles or something, but on paper, “Beast” comes off as a movie I would find on television. It feels weird to say because Baltasar Kormákur is not a name I would think of when it comes to that comparison, as he previously directed “Everest,” which despite its disposability, looked pristine in almost every shot.
Going back to my hotel room comparison, I would probably watch this film, in the background that is, if I randomly found it while flipping through channels. If I had to write a review like this and I needed background noise, there are worse options out there in terms of finding something to help me concentrate on my work. But in all seriousness, if Idris Elba were not the star, I could see this movie having gone straight to Syfy or even direct to DVD. Remember that? It’s still a thing! Have you ever been to a Walmart and seen all these crappy looking, ripoff movies? Yeah, this would randomly blend in with the three thousand direct to DVD shark movies that have come out over the past few years. No offense to Amber Midthunder, but I assume if “Prey,” the new “Predator” movie, starred someone who has evidently been a box office draw, that movie would have went theatrical instead of straight to Hulu. I have not seen the movie, so I cannot comment on how good it is. But I can say that if they had Margot Robbie or Jennifer Garner for example, 20th Century Studios would have probably leant towards putting the movie in theaters. Before I saw “Beast,” I asked my friend if he wanted to go, and when I described the movie, before I even said the title, I mentioned Idris Elba’s name. That goes to show how much of a selling point he is. Even a movie with this low brow of a plot could be sellable with a star like Elba attached. I was sold at the door. Too bad I probably will not watch the movie again anytime soon.
In the end, “Beast” is a movie with a straight to DVD vibe that went theatrical due to its polish and bankable lead. As of writing, “Beast” barely past its budget of $36 million at the box office, so Idris Elba-wise, this could wind up being less of a “Pacific Rim” and more of a “Cats.” Only time will tell, but the latter seems likely at this point. “Beast” is arguably the most positively middle of the road film of the year so far. It is not good enough for an instant rewatch, but it is also not terrible enough to say that my time was wasted. It is only 93 minutes long, and the runtime is suitable enough for the limited story at hand. I am going to give “Beast” a 6/10.
“Beast” is now playing in theatres everywhere, tickets are available now!
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, check out some of my other ones. Just recently I shared my thoughts on the Jordan Peele-directed blockbuster “Nope,” which yes, I think you should read. Also, if you want more star power, check out my review for “DC League of Super-Pets,” the all new animated movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. Speaking of Beasts, I think it is time to once again promote a recent post I did that I am unbelievably proud of, my extended thoughts as to why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” which has now become not only one of my favorite movies, but my gateway drug into anime. Also stay tuned for more reviews coming soon because I will be sharing my thoughts on the musical biopic “Elvis” and the brand new anime film “Inu-Oh.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Beast?” What did you think about it? Or, out of curiosity, for those of who have seen both movies… Did you enjoy “Beast” or “Jurassic World: Dominion” more? I am genuinely curious and given how both films are from the same distribution company, I figured this would be an appropriate question to ask. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!