Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Beastmaster

    That Conan reboot about finished me with my sword & sorcery binge, but luckily The Beastmaster saved the day. This movie is almost everything anyone could want from a movie like this. It's full of adventure and action, vile villains and vast landscapes, eye catching visuals and beautiful women. The Beastmaster has it in spades. It follows a Conan-esque formula, without ever being a rip-off. It's protagonist might be a bit stiff at times, but he has enough personality to set him apart from the average barbarian. In fact, he's not a barbarian at all. Oddly enough, he has more in common with Luke Skywalker than he does Conan. That is, if Luke wore a loincloth and was completely ripped.

    The Beastmaster comes way of director Don Coscarelli, the same creative energy behind Phantasm and John Dies at the End. His trademark weirdness isn't absent from this fantasy tale, fear not. Our hero, Dar, encounters some strange... race of bat-like mutant people... things. It's a neat scene in the movie, and with a handful of other weird and gruesome scenes, immediately sets this flick apart from so many others in it's genre. Not to mention, Dar is quite literally a beastmaster. It's not just a flashy title, he has an 'ability' with animals. They understand him, and he understands them. Thankfully they kept this as plausible looking as possible. The animals never magically chime in with cheesy Disney-esque voices. They're just animals. Dar can simply communicate with them.

    It could've been a one-trick gimmick, but it stayed relevant and clever throughout the movie. The animals help him out in battle and all other kinds of stuff. It's neat. Regardless though, the movie is kind of slow, at least when compared to other entries in the genre. A good chunk of the back end of the first act and a decent portion of the second act, they're full of nonsense. Dar's village is raided, okay, his people murdered, okay, he sets out on a quest for vengeance- so far so good, and then we see him... training? I guess? Yelling from clifftops and swinging a log around. This kind of non-montage goes on for a few minutes or more. Then he goes swimming or something, and finds some animal pals, and then finds some woman bathing and decides to put the moves on her. Yeah. Your family and friends were just massacred earlier today, and you're chasing tail? Oookay...

   It could've been worse I guess. At least the movie, while slow in parts, is never dull. Something fun or exciting is always happening. As the movie progresses, Dar meets more interesting characters and the action scenes come more frequently. They're pretty bloodless, which is fine I guess, but I do enjoy a good amount of guts and gore in this type of flick. Seeing Dar's whole village impales on poles, Vlad style was pretty gruesome, but not the type of blood spill I was hoping for. I guess they had to choose though. They did have a couple scenes of brief nudity in the movie, and it was either that or a few bloody rolling heads like Conan The Destroyer had.

    The movie was full of familiar faces, in bit parts, and in bigger roles. John Amos plays a bodyguard of sorts (in a role that would've obviously gone to Michael Clarke Duncan had the movie been made a decade or two later). Anyways, he teams up with Dar to overthrow the evil priest guy, played by Rip Torn. How does this not sound awesome so far? If the movie has any haters out there, they must be people with sticks up their butts, or people who can't enjoy old B-movies. (see: sticks up butts) The Beastmaster can be silly and hokey, but it's also a vibrant and colorful movie with big set pieces and plenty of swashbuckling action. It's a big ball of fun.

   The movie spawned a couple nonsense sequels and a fun TV show, but I completely recommend the first movie to anyone looking for a flick with the right combination of elements to put the magic back into a Saturday matinee. It'd make a fun double feature with Conan The Destroyer, or Dragonslayer. Hell, if you're feeling ambition, pull a triple feature and go for broke. When all is said and done, The Beastmaster is harmless entertainment and a good way to kill 90 minutes. You can't go wrong with a flick like this.

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