Beast And The Underrated Joy Of A Straightforward Movie

It has been a slow few weeks for the end of the summer moviegoing season after a string of big hits like "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" made 2022 feel pretty close to normal in the box office department. But Hollywood has decided to leave a (mostly) barren wasteland from now until mid-October, with few big films coming out to give movie lovers much of a  reason to leave the house. That having been said, dear reader, I am here to tell you that lovers of Idris Elba, creature features, and movies that are charmingly straightforward have a very good reason to get off the couch — and that reason is "Beast."

Universal Pictures released the film in mid-August to try and round out the summer with something original. Or, at the very least, something not based on a pre-existing piece of material or set within an established franchise. However, the tale of Elba's Dr. Nate Samuels, who contends with a man-killing lion in Africa whilst on a trip home to reconnect with his kids, is not necessarily swinging for the fences in terms of originality. It is, in many ways, a straight-up creature feature with the angry, bloodthirsty, huge lion serving as the creature. And it is precisely this unapologetic, straightforward nature of director Baltasar Kormákur's film that makes it well worth the price of admission.

Uncomplicated honesty

Everyone's mileage is going to vary but, for me, seeing the trailer for "Beast" got my blood pumping in a big bad way. Elba is one of the finest and most entertaining actors working today, so the idea of putting him front-and-center in a film with a premise such as this seemed like everything my popcorn movie-loving heart could desire. My girlfriend simply didn't understand my low-key freakout in the theater when I saw the trailer on the big screen for the first time. Creature features are among my favorite cinematic pleasures and, after a couple of pandemic-riddled years, we were getting an original, theatrically-released, studio-produced creature feature with an A-list cast. F*** yeah.

When I actually saw the film in a packed theater full of clearly like-minded individuals, my excitement was rewarded with a blockbuster the likes of which we rarely get anymore. I was treated to precisely what was advertised and what I paid for: a man and his family battle a deadly creature in the wild for a little less than two hours. Some scares. Some violence. Some ridiculousness. All fun. The crowd was on the movie's side, rowdy in the way a theater can be on opening night, and it all made for one of the best moviegoing experiences I've had since theaters opened back up in earnest last year.

That experience did not rely on any tricks or gimmicks. There were no twists or the marketing team behind the movie hiding a twist like M. Night Shyamalan. It was an honestly marketed movie that delivered on the experience that it promised. And man, if you are the type of person who might — just might — enjoy a movie about a big-ass killer lion, this is the movie for you. Straight up. That is what is so wonderful about it.

Beauty in simplicity

As someone who enjoys blockbuster entertainment above all else, there was something deeply refreshing about the beautiful simplicity of it all. For whatever reason, it feels like so many mainstream movies are needlessly complicated now. I mean, even superhero movies are now reliant on understanding a complex multiverse. A superhero commonly known as the "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" is now dealing with an expanding multiverse of possibilities. I absolutely love "Spider-Man: No Way Home," for the record, but it's a lot.

And that movie is by no means a singular entity. Just look at the baffling complexity of "Jurassic World Dominion." They made a movie that was supposed to be about dinosaurs living in the real world alongside humans about giant locusts and a threat to the global food supply. Why? To what end? Or we can look at the convoluted nature of 2018's "Godzilla: King of the Monsters." That movie could have seriously benefited from a more straightforward approach. Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah. That math checks out. Why complicate it? What is the fascination with complicating things in blockbuster cinema right now?

On the flipside, "Beast" gets by on delivering the goods as promised. It is a nice made, fun movie aimed squarely at the people who know it's for them. No tricks. No unexpected twists or turns. It is an entertaining film that understands that it is perfectly okay to just be the thing you are trying to be. I'm certainly not arguing for everything to be reductive and simplistic, but not everything has to be a tangled web of complexity either. Man versus nature works just fine. So, in this dead zone at the box office, if you're looking for a thrill, I implore you to take in the simple pleasures that Elba and a big CGI lion have to offer.

"Beast" is in theaters now.