Release Date(s)2022 (October 11, 2022)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C
Beast is yet another example of survival cinema from director Baltasar Kormákur, who has become indelibly associated with the subgenre thanks to earlier efforts like The Deep, Everest, and Adrift. Those were all tales of survival against natural elements such as the seas or the weather, but for Beast, the threat is of a different sort. Rather than the implacable yet insensate threat posed by those forces of nature, Beast pits its human characters against a much more cunning enemy: an angry lion out for revenge. The screenplay by Ryan Engle follows the recently widowed Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) as he travels to South Africa with his daughters (Leah Jeffries and Iyana Halley) to visit their old friend Martin (Sharlto Copley) on a game reserve. Unbeknownst to any of them, a nearby pride of lions has been slaughtered by a group of poachers, and the sole survivor of the hunt has gone rogue, turning the tables not just on the poachers, but on anyone else in the vicinity. Nate, Martin, and the girls find themselves fighting for their own survival, caught between the lion and the poachers.
In an era dominated by needlessly bloated action/adventure films, Beast runs an admirably efficient 93 minutes long. Yet ironically enough, it might have benefited by taking a little more time to develop the characters and their relationships. To make this kind of economical storytelling work properly, the actors all need to be instantly identifiable types. That’s why Ridley Scott’s Alien was so effective despite the lack of backstories; everything that viewers needed to understand about the characters was clearly defined by the personalities of the actors who played them. Elba is a great actor, but he’s not a character actor, so he doesn’t bring any of that baggage into the film for viewers to intuitively grasp anything about the role that he’s playing. His relationships with his daughters and Sharlto Copley also seem perfunctory at best. As a result, the stakes never feel high enough to generate sufficient suspense. Beast is competently crafted and tightly edited, but it’s one film that would have been better off taking more time to stop and smell the roses.
Cinematographers Philippe Rousselot and Baltasar Breki Samper captured Beast digitally at 6.5K and 4.5K resolutions, using ARRI Alexa 65 and Alexa Mini LF cameras with Leitz Thalia lenses. Post-production work was completed as a 4K Digital Intermediate, framed at 2.39:1 for its theatrical and streaming releases. The fact that Beast utilized a 4K DI certainly cries out for a 4K Ultra HD version, but Universal elected to release it in 1080p only, at least as far as physical media is concerned. Things don’t start out promisingly during the opening pre-credit sequence, which shows the original slaughter from the poachers at night. There’s a fair amount of noise visible, and everything looks soft and smeared, almost like the composite work was rendered at 2K. Contrast is limited, and blacks are washed out. Once that sequence is out of the way, most of the rest of the film looks much sharper and more detailed. The only exceptions are a few nighttime shots that share some of the same issues as the opening sequence, but thankfully, the majority of the film takes place in broad daylight. Under those conditions, the contrast is better, enhanced by the warm, orange-teal color palette, and the details are well-defined, with little noise visible. Aside from the few problematic shots, it’s a generally solid transfer.
Primary audio is offered in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Beast was exhibited theatrically in Dolby Atmos, but Universal’s decision not to release a UHD means that they also didn’t include that mix here—like many studios, Universal tends not to offer Atmos or DTS:X on standard Blu-ray. That’s a real shame, because this is an excellent 7.1 mix, and it’s pretty easy to tell how the original mix used the overhead channels. There’s a ton of ambient effects at all times, with some sounds panning precisely between the channels. During one scene where a group of victims are discovered inside of a building, flies buzz around the viewer, panning across the soundstage from speaker to speaker, and it’s not hard to imagine how the overheads would have been included in that. There’s plenty of energy and dynamic impact during the action scenes, too, and the bass is deep when appropriate. It’s a great 7.1 track that upmixes well via the Dolby Surround or DTS:X algorithms, but it still could have been better via a native object-based mix. Additional audio choices on the disc include Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital+, French 5.1 DTS Digital Surround, and Descriptive Video Service, with optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Universal’s Blu- ray release of Beast is a two-disc set that includes a standard definition copy of the film on DVD and a slipcover, with a Digital code on a paper insert tucked inside. The following extras are included, all of them in HD:
- Deleted Scene (:47)
- Creating the Beast (4:07)
- Man vs. Lion: The Final Battle (2:57)
- Making It Real: The Wounds (4:10)
- Filming in the Beast’s Territory (5:07)
- The Family Bond: Filming Beast (6:05)
- A Lion’s Pride (7:42)
The extras are all extremely brief EPK-style featurettes that probably would have been better served by editing them into a single documentary. Fortunately, Universal does provide a “Play All” option. The Deleted Scene is a short character moment between Elba’s daughters that wouldn’t have added much to the final cut. Creating the Beast focuses on the visual effects for the lions, which were entirely computer generated. Man vs. Lion The Final Battle centers around the last showdown between Elba and the titular beast. Making It Real: The Wounds focuses on the gory prosthetic makeup effects. Filming in the Beast’s Territory looks at the practical locations in South Africa. The Family Bond: Filming Beast explores the underdeveloped relationship between Elba and his daughters in the film. Finally, A Lion’s Pride examines the real-world threat that lions face from poaching.
It’s a fairly perfunctory collection of extras, which isn’t surprising given the fact that Universal didn’t feel that Beast was even worthy of a 4K Ultra HD release. It’s hardly a great film, but it’s not a bad one, either, and it certainly deserved a little more attention than it got here. Still, the video and audio quality are decent for 1080p Blu-ray, so it’s still worth picking up if you’re a fan of the film. Universal could release a UHD down the road, but it’s not likely. For now, this is the only option on physical media.
- Stephen Bjork