In my recent review of Jordan Peele’s Nope, I talked about how the film drew familiarity with the blockbusters of Steven Spielberg. Beast is a lot more noticeable than that, to the point where even a character wears a Jurassic Park shirt. You can pretty much boil Beast down to Idris Elba fighting a lion and, if you’re a fan of Elba, is probably enough to make you purchase a ticket. But after seeing Beast for myself, I roll my eyes at the thought of this film being compared to Spielberg in his prime because this film is a failed attempt at cloning his films. An absolutely astonishing failing.
With a premise as simple as a family being terrorised by a lion, the film doesn’t have too many jobs to complete in order for audiences to enjoy what’s on the screen. I give the film credit, when it gets the tension right, it gets it right. As much as it is important to nail the human characters, it’s also important to nail the lion itself, which the film does in a couple of moments. I love how the camera tracks the lion when it circles the family before it attacks, we never take out eyes off it, even when the lion is obviously about to attack, we still don’t expect it. The creation of great anticipation is honestly the only saving grace of this film.
My expectations for Beast weren’t decided when I made the decision to review it. On one hand, I expected a simple premise, but at the same time, I also felt that there was more to the film than what the trailers were revealing. What I could not have predicted is how unorganised the whole film felt. For instance, I do wonder how much freedom director Baltasar Kormákur gave to his actors because he might have been a bit too lax with them. You can see this in the dialogue, not so much the words themselves, but how everyone delivers their lines over each other. There could be three or four voices all trying to talk over each other and you just wish they would shut up so we can actually hear what they’re saying. It doesn’t create panic; it creates annoyance for us watching it.
I often avoid talking about stupid decisions taken by characters in films as it’s pretty easy to look at something and say to ourselves we would never do that. In truth, we don’t really know what we’d do in a life or death situation, but if I lion was hunting me down, I wouldn’t be using a walkie-talkie a lot. But that’s exactly what the characters do her, sometimes even in close proximity to the lion, but the lion seems oblivious to the loud noise. And what’s worse, is that in one scene the characters are stuck in a van, which had its window smashed from a previous lion attack, and Idris Elba’s character lets his daughter sleep right next to the open window. The introduction to Idris’s character Dr. Nate Samuels establishes him being disconnected with his daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries), and I’m not surprised letting them sleep next to an open window so haphazardly.
The human characters aren’t the only ones making bad decisions. Beast works best when you let the lion do the work, but it can barely do that because the behaviour is so odd at times. In one scene, Nate’s friend and wildlife biologist Martin (Sharlto Copley) is wounded badly and is staring down the lion, he can’t move his leg and he’s talking on the walkie-talkie about how he knows the lion sees him. you think the lion is going to attack him, but no, he leaves him. I was internally shouting at the screen at this point, you’ve already established that the lion will attack people on sight, so why is he leaving what is essentially prey served to him on a silver platter? My theory, the walkie-talkies are like tinnitus to the lion, and it can’t stand them.
Something else that will stick out like a sore thumb in Beast is the cinematography. This film really, really loves its continuous shots, it may border on obsession. I wouldn’t mind it if it served some sort of function, such as when the lion is circling around them or giving the audience a sense of the environment, to which I’ll raise my hand and say the film does occasionally, but even in less thrilling scenes it does this, and I’m not entirely sure why they went with this. I think in the cinematographer world, some must think that the longer the continuous shot you have, the bigger balls you have, or you’re just desperate to show off, both of these are terrible ways of thinking and I think someone should tell that to the cinematographer of Beast.
If I hear one more person compare this to Jaws or Jurassic Park, I will be slapping them in the face for having the nerve to put those masterpieces and this abomination in the same sentence. Beast is more akin to those corny “creature feature” such as Eight Legged Freaks or any of those god-awful Megashark films from The Asylum. There wasn’t a lot of expectations for Beast from myself, but I can’t sugar-coat my feelings about this film, I’ve been utterly let down.
Final Result: 1/10 – Dreadful
Have you seen Beast? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Fall
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