There are not that many movies where I immediately say no. No to every character and every decision they make. Suspension of disbelief is a real thing and the staple of the film and entertainment industry. With Beast, it was a real challenge to let things slide. Producer Will Packer (Girls Trip) brings us an action film starring Idris Elba (The Suicide Squad) and a lion. I am truly convinced Idris said yes to this film based on his friendship with Will. Packer has given us many great films, but unfortunately, this one is not his best.
Beast has one thing going for it, action. The film will have you on the edge of your seat, but the high-action sequences are laughable. This is the film where Black audiences will want to yell at the screen and shake their head in disapproval. You know those films. It’s usually the horror films that get that reaction. I almost wish Beast was a made-for-TV movie, given the ridiculous nature of it all.
Beast is the latest from Universal Pictures, RVK Studios, and Will Packer Productions. The film is written by Ryan Engle (Rampage) and Jaime Primak Sullivan (Breaking In) and directed by Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns). Along with Idris Elba, the film also stars Sharlto Copley (District 9), Iyana Halley (This is Us), and Lea Jeffries (Empire).
Beast follows recently widowed Dr. Nate Daniels and his two teenage daughters as they travel to South Africa to reconnect and retrace their late mother’s steps. Visiting a game reserve managed by Nate’s best friend and wildlife biologist, Martin Battles, the fun safari takes a quick turn for the worse. Their vacation turns into a fight for survival as a rogue lion, the last from his pride, which was killed by poachers, takes revenge on all humans who cross his path. Dr. Nate and his daughters become trapped in their vehicle, stalked by the lion, trying to find a way to safety.
Let’s start at the very beginning. The script is not great. I had higher hopes for this action film set in Africa with a predominantly Black cast and produced by a Black man. I was rooting for everybody Black. But, alas, the story is predictable and flawed from start to finish. Originality is out the window. Beast could easily be the start of the TV series, Zoo. That show was also entertaining yet dumb and got canceled after 3 seasons. It’s Cujo, but with a lion.
The list of comparisons goes on. While the idea of animals exhibiting strange behavior and attacking humans is a been-there-done-that situation, Beast comes off as a ripoff of those animal-monster films from back in the day. Most notably, the 2007 film Prey, starring Bridget Moynahan. Too close to comfortably say it wasn’t an influence in the writing room. Beast seems like it was a script written in the late 90s, maybe early 2000s, and was dusted off when money needed to be made.
I love Idris Elba. I feel like most people who see this film will see it for him. Although an actor I would watch time and time again, even Idris ican’t save this movie from becoming what it is. There is no rooting for the central characters to survive. If anything, you wonder how they will go out. It is the lion who is the focus and you have more sympathy for it than you do the humans in the story. Director Kormákur delivers on the action, but the impact of those scenes is shackled by the consistently stupid decisions.
Idris is playing an accomplished doctor who apparently has more book smarts than street smarts, an attribute that his daughters also inherited. Speaking of his daughters, they are adorable, yet the root of the majority of the chaos in this film. I wanted the eldest, Meredith, to be eaten from the beginning. This is not how you want your audience to feel about your main characters.
The special effects in Beast look like an outdated version of what we know the industry has available. I’m glad they used real animals where they could, but even with a smaller budget, some special effect scenes look like the editors got a little lazy. Technology has come a long way, and many effects should have been done differently if it was indeed made in the past couple of years. The CGI in the climatic scene looks like something out of the first Quidditch match of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and that was made just over 20 years ago.
Overall, don’t kick yourself if you miss this film in theaters. Idris Elba is a movie star who will be in plenty of other things. Beast is simple and straight to the point. Does the film have high energy? Yes. Adrenaline? Yes. But, it is also seriously lacking in substance. Beast is all brawn and no brain. If you find yourself wanting to see Idris try his best against a lion, Beast will arrive in theaters on August 19, 2022.