I grew up on X-Men: The Animated Series, so discovering that Beast would be in X3: The Last Stand was a huge deal for me. I mean massive. I freaked out about how great it would be- how the genius bruiser, the erudite muscle of the X-Men team himself would smash all competition on-screen. And when Kelsey Grammer was cast, I knew that he was the perfect choice. And then, The Last Stand came out, and I was aghast. Not just at Beast- of course- but at the whole movie. But the short shrift they gave to poor, poor Beast was where it hit me really hard. That was personal, Brett Ratner. Damn you.
So you must understand that seeing Nicholas Hoult play Beast in X-Men: First Class was almost too much for me. It was too hard to bear, that the perfect combination of my favourite character and the best possible casting choice could be overwritten by the guy from Skins. I’m saying basically that I’m a little biased in my decisions here.
Time and time again, particularly in Frasier, Grammer has proven himself to be one of the few actors in Hollywood capable of carrying the intellectual power to play Beast convincingly. Maybe the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman could have done it, but something tells me he wouldn’t do the makeup. But slightly more questionable is Grammer’s ability to pull off the physical activity of Beast. The Beast of the cartoon series (my Beast!) was always quoting Shakespeare AS he charged into battle, not as he sat on the sidelines. This is the major problem for his interpretation of the character, I feel. Granted, it’s at least somewhat explained, as Beast is a sort of ambassasdor for mutant-kind, sitting in on high-level political discussions and wearing a suit. A normal suit, not one of the fancy leather ones. But this merely justifies the choice, and doesn’t make it a good one. For my money, Beast is at his best when he is not only juxtaposing the difference between his appearance and his intellect, but dramatising the link between intellectual decision and physical action. He should bound around more!
Unfortunately, all this is compounded by appearing in the worst X-Men film (sorry, at least X-Men Origins: Wolverine is funny). Kelsey Grammer does his best, as does the rest of the cast, but is overwhelmed by the sheer number of plot threads and lack of coherent action. For this reason, and for the lack of physicality, I have to say Grammer’s the worse Beast. Sorry Frasier!
So I’m going into X-Men: First Class with a bad taste already in my mouth thanks to The Last Stand, and then I find out Hoult is playing Beast. Once I got over the fury that they hadn’t gone to the effort of de-aging Kelsey Grammer, I guess he was pretty good, for a cat. I mean seriously, did they have to make him look so much like a kitty cat? Any adaptation of Beast into a live-action form is going to have to deal with the fact that his character design is patently ridiculous, but it’s almost like the designers for First Class decided they could push him so far into stupid that he would come out dramatic again. Urgh.
Hoult nails playing the human Beast, but once his mutation really gets going and he turns into the big blue buddy we know and love, it gets a little more difficult to not laugh at him. In his romantic scenes, Hoult particularly excels- maybe because this is where most of his Skins screen-time went, as he definitely looks more comfortable there than he does pretending to be a big pussycat flying a plane. As you might be able to tell, I hold no great love for Hoult’s performance as Beast. It does get a lot better in X-Men: Days of Future Past as Hoult becomes more comfortable with the medium and, crucially, he loses the silly cat nose. However, all my bugbears aside on Hoult’s performance, I’ve got to concede it’s much better than Grammer’s, at least partly because he gets something to do, and also because the film he’s introduced in isn’t catastrophically awful.
Who do you think played Beast best?