Attention Theseus! Judge Brett Cullum summons you to save this flick from itself.
Curse the god. Slay the beast.
Minotaur is set in the Iron Age (not Ancient Greece), and hearkens back to Conan-style sword and sandal epics mixed with the basic monster movie. It's about a vaguely Norse village that must surrender eight youths every three years into a labyrinth where a hungry minotaur lives. The sacrifice-immune son of the village's leader sneaks on board the ship in order to kill the beast. He seems to think a girl he loves is still alive because a leper witch told him so, and they never lie. In a way it's kind of fun, in a B-movie way. It would be a great candidate for the Mystery Science Theatre 2000 crew. Minotaur is a groan inspiring flick, but has some charms—even if they are unintentional. Still, for the most part, it's bad.
Young, fresh-faced actors dressed in rags square off with a special effect. That's about the gist of the casting. The unrecognizable actors do well enough, although quite a few were so annoyingly amateurish I was rooting for them to get the horns. Nobody you've ever heard of appears in the film other than a pair of character actors looking for a gig. Tony Todd (Candyman) plays the crazy black man with big collars who runs the exportation program in to the maze of the minotaur. He gets to pout and preen in fabulous gold and black outfits that convinced me Harvey Fierstein could take over for him. Honestly, it's a performance that would be at home in a Broadway musical, right down to the make-up and Lee press-on nails. Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) has a cameo as the leader of the village, and he seems to be having a good enough time acting old and wizened. He got to wear fur and stubble, and it's a paycheck for a man who deserves far better.
Technically, the movie is barely competent. The production looks like a Stargate episode. The robotics and creature effects are fine and dandy, although the minotaur was surprisingly a four-legged creature instead of two. It seemed more bull than human, and more skeleton than flesh. It doesn't have enough personality to be truly scary. There are some obvious scenes with wire work, and not everything is seamless. By TV standards it is okay, about on par with the Sci Fi Channel original label it has slapped on it. The script is heavy handed, with a lot of leaden lines, but the film moves forward at a nice enough pace to keep you from groaning too long.
The real torture is the labyrinth. Once the kids get shoved in to the caves, it seems they are down there forever. The set looks like they wander on to the same stage again and again like a crazed contraption from the '30s where the scenery flies by on a repeating roll. It is here the movie hopes to work up the same kind of claustrophobic terror Alien did so well, but there's not enough character to the space or what haunts it. It starts to remind me of the "running of the bulls" only with narrower space and fewer people. You wait for the next one to get the business end of the horn, and you'll figure out how to slay the beast well before any one in the film does.
Lionsgate doesn't skimp on the presentation of the DVD. Included is an excellent transfer both visually and in the sound delivery. Also included is a visual effects reel which shows how amazing even cheap CGI has become. You get to see the untreated shot, often the working print, and then the fully realized sequence. The commentary with the director and editor includes an all too prophetic "we have no idea how we got this made" statement, and then they explain a basic plot for you. They do provide a lot of insight in how to make a crap television movie if anyone is interested in pursuing that line of work (beats burger flipping I guess). Deleted scenes run on forever, and include unedited versions of ones in the movie proper. There were great trailers included for movies I would gladly see rather than this stinker. All in all, a very well done DVD.
In the end you may want to give this one a rental if you're a fan of Greek mythology. It doesn't follow the original tale of Theseus and the minotaur closely at all, but there are references such as naming the lead Theo. For a Sci Fi Original Production it's not bad, but on par with anything itself it's rubbish. If you're in the mood to see some crazy bull antics or an entire cast huffing gas then it's a masterpiece. Otherwise it's as charming as the bull in the china shop story. And somehow I made it through this review without a "bullshit" joke, somebody send me a medal.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Jonathan English and Editor Eddie Hamilton
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