Plot: What’s it about?
Want to see Idris Elba punch (and kick) a lion? Well, look no further than Beast. This is a lean and perfectly watchable (if instantly forgettable) action flick that will either fill a void or deter viewers. Thankfully, I found there to be enough to like to have some fun during my theatrical viewing. It is certainly a rarity these days where franchise films and superhero flicks invade the market. This one has zero agenda, messages or politics attached to it; it’s simply here to entertain for its brief 90 some minutes. And for that I must credit it.
Idris plays Dr. Nate Daniels; he is recently widowed and brings his two daughters along with him to return to the birthplace of his late ex-wife. His two daughters are: 18-year-old Meredith (Iyana Halley) and 13-year-old Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries). There’s a hope to enjoy the area and see some nice sights. They meet and stay at an old friend of theirs named Martin (Sharlto Copley) who knows the area well and has history with Nate. When they stumble upon a village that has been attacked. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that some lions have done this, and poachers have led to their now aggressive behavior. I don’t have to tell you what happens next, but we find our characters not only wounded and fighting for their lives, but also a vehicle that becomes lodged in a tree, and the struggle to stay alive.
There will likely be some frustrated viewers as we get the usual scenes of character who should stay put, but instead, put themselves in more danger. Even if their intention is to help, the decisions they make can elicit a few groans. Elba is strong in the lead even if the film doesn’t ask much of him. Physically maybe, but the performance itself is mostly just him looking scared and trying to calm everyone down. For such a lean film, the first half could use a bit of tightening up. I wouldn’t mind so much if this added to the film but we get all the pieces we need early on that a little tighter narrative would’ve helped. I do appreciate the R-rating and mostly effective CGI. It isn’t an all-out action film, but it gives the audiences enough of what they expect. And yes, there’s Elba kicking a lion a few times and even punching it as well. You’re either on board with this thing or you’re not. It’s a fun film to see with a large audience. There were a couple of very effective jump scenes as well. I am not quite as crazy about it as a lot of the critics (it has gotten surprisingly solid reviews), but it is an entertaining diversion that delivers on its premise.
Video: How’s it look?
It’s safe to say that this film won’t have a “cold and corporate” look and feel to it. No way. The 2.39:1 AVC HD image is basked in warmth and earthy-tones from beginning to end. If it’s sweeping views of the Serengeti that you’re after, then look no further. Detail is tack sharp, showcasing a little too much of some of the wounds accumulated throughout the course of the film. The palette, as alluded to earlier, is very natural. There are some darker scenes, but they’re not really challenged at all. Oddly, this title isn’t available in 4K (yet), so we might have to guess how this will look with HDR. Still, for what it is, a new-to-the-format film on Blu-ray – c’mon, we all know it’ll look good.
Audio: How’s it sound?
If you’ve never heard the roar of a lion in full DTS HD Master Audio, well then you’re letting the best in life pass you by. I kid. I’m probably about 3,000 miles away from any lion that’s not in a zoo, so it didn’t really resonate too much with me. That said, the track delivers on what it’s supposed to: high-quality lossless audio that heightens the experience of the film. Vocals are pure and crisp, sharp as well. The surrounds do their best to add some ambiance to the mix (pardon the pun) and do a farily good job of it. The front stage is always active, too. It gets harder and harder to come up with new ways to say “this sounds pretty damn good.” So I’ll leave it at that.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scene – Watch an exclusive unreleased scene from Beast
- Man vs. Lion: The Final Battle – Go inside the epic final battle between Nate and the beast himself as Director Baltasar Kormákur, star Idris Elba, and key members of the VFX team walk us through putting it all together.
- Creating the Beast – The vicious title character of Beast is no ordinary lion. He’s bigger, he’s meaner, and he’s got an axe to grind against humanity. Sit down with director Baltasar Kormákur as he explains what he envisioned for The Beast.
- Making it Real: The Wounds – Sit down with prosthetics supervisor Clinton Smith and prosthetic assistant Daleen Badenhorst as they walk us through all the gory details of creating realistic looking slices, gashes, and tears caused by a massive, predatory lion.
- Filming in the Beast’s Territory – Visit Limpopo South Africa where the cast and crew travelled to capture all the vistas, planes, and mountains of Africa authentically on film.
- Family Bond: The Cast of the Beast – Meet the family at the heart of this story as director Baltasar Kormákur and cast members Idris Elba, Iyana Halley, and Leah Jeffries take us inside their characters’ journeys as they come together and heal in the direst of circumstances.
- A Lion’s Pride – Learn the tragic truth of lion poaching with this factual piece that takes viewers inside the fight to protect the big game of Africa.
The Bottom Line
Beast is a perfectly entertaining and largely forgettable film that gives its target audience exactly what they expect. It could have been a little better, but it more than gets the job done. It knows not to overstay its welcome, but maybe a few more action scenes might’ve gone far. Check it out.