*. I thought Beast was a lousy movie, but I could imagine it having a different impact on me if I’d seen it when I saw a lot of other movies like it on TV when I was a kid. Movies where a giant killer animal goes on the rampage. I’m talking B-flicks, or C-flicks, like Grizzly (1976), Orca (1977), and Alligator (1980). In Beast, the titular beastie is a male lion whose pride has been wiped out by poachers. Now he’s taking his vengeance on humankind. Including an American doctor (Idris Elba) and his two young daughters who happen to be visiting an old friend (Sharlto Copley) in Africa and find themselves very much in the wrong place at the wrong time.
*. If you’ve heard anything about Beast then you know it’s the movie where Idris Elba punches a lion. This he does. And the rest of his MMA training comes in handy too in a final showdown with the King of the Beasts that he miraculously survives. Which is very stupid, but far from the stupidest thing going on here.
*. Things get off to a dumb start with the opening shots of the poachers approaching a pride of lions with their guns drawn, in a packed formation where they’re all standing behind one another. This is not the way a squad of armed men arrange themselves, unless you want the back of your head blown off by the guy behind you. Then, later in the same scene, one of the poachers will get caught in the trap he just set. At which point you realize you’re going to be groaning and shaking your head a lot in the next 90 minutes.
*. In addition to being stupid, the plot is the usual string of clichés. Elba’s doctor carries a sense of guilt in relation to his estranged wife’s death, which his kids also resent him for, so the trials they face will, you guessed it, bring them closer together as a family. There are mountains that cut off any phone or radio communication, so our heroes are on their own except for walky-talkies. One of which goes off just when Elba is trying to be very, very quiet! Everyone acts like a teenager in a slasher film’s idiot plot, wandering off on their own so that they can find themselves in danger and have to narrowly escape the lion . . . again and again and again. It’s not even clear why Elba’s character feels he has to go mano-a-leo at the end. Why not just stay in the church? Because the lion will never leave them alone, is what he tells the kids. OK.
*. The structure of the plot is also utterly predictable. The lion is surely killed in a fiery explosion, but just as surely we know it will come back. And it does. We’re introduced to a “good” pride of lions in the first act that will have a role to play later. Though not much of one, as the ending feels rushed and oddly anticlimactic. It’s like they ran out of money for any more effects and just decided to call it a wrap. Indeed, I’m not even sure what happens, aside from the fact that Elba and his kids survive to tell the tale.
*. There’s not much to say about this one. The CGI lion actually looks pretty good, which is a blessing because without that they would have had nothing. CGI insects, however, remain a real problem. Elba does his manful best to try and sell the worthless script, and his manful best is very good, but it’s only enough to keep his head above water.
*. Like I say, seen on TV ca. 1978-1980, a twelve-year-old version of myself might have been impressed by this. But those days are long gone and movies like this a rightfully endangered species. Unless you’re talking about a bear zonked out on cocaine. That’s how far we’ve come.