Minotaur came out in 2006, but is only just now being released on DVD – presumably to cash in on star Tom Hardy’s meteoric rise. This may tell you everything you need to know. But if it doesn’t, and to save you some time, here’s a quick questionnaire to determine whether or not Minotaur is for you:
If you answered Yes to either question, then have I got the film for you. I figure I’m slightly more intelligent than a brick because I don’t get pissed on in alleyways for a living, so I got through Minotaur by turning it into a drinking game. To do this at home yourself, you’ll need booze. Tasty, tasty, booze. Filmwerk recommends Martin Miller’s gin and Oyster Bay (NZ) sauvignon blanc, although other alcoholic beverages are available.
It may also help to draw up a bingo checklist. Since Minotaur was obviously trying to ride the coattails of 2004’s Troy and Alexander, the first few items on my list were:
ALL of these things came up in the first two minutes – before the name of the film appeared onscreen. This meant I was well squiffy before the movie even got going! Before five minutes was over, I had also crossed off “talismanic pendants”, “drug rug shirts”, “plaits” and “father/son conflict”. As a result, I am happy to report that Minotaur is the greatest film ever made, provided we’re only talking in terms of films that will help you get right off your tits.
Although my handwriting deteriorated as the film went on and the liquor flowed, I’ve pieced together my notes as best I can. In no particular order:
Tom Hardy Everybody has to start somewhere. Tom started here and now he’s doing actual Hollywood films with actual budgets. He’s not in Prometheus, though. You’re thinking of his doppelganger, Logan Marshall-Green. In Minotaur Tom plays Theo, aka the classical Greek hero formerly known as Theseus, who in this version of the Minotaur story is a shepherd sent to save the world from a false god. I have no idea what the subtext there is. Theo’s not a very good shepherd – of the nine people he tries to lead out of the labyrinth, only three survive and at one point he has to chase a wolf that kills one of his sheep. I think he intends to capture the wolf, drag it back to the flock and make it apologise to the surviving sheep. Instead he winds up in the cave of The Leper, played by Ingrid Pitt.
Ingrid Pitt The late Hammer Horror legend is cruelly treated in one of her final roles. Buried beneath layers of grotesque prosthetics is the woman whose gorgeous blonde locks, voluminous cleavage and come-hither eyes spurred legions of young men through puberty. Every time someone sees her, they gasp “The Leper!” I think she’s called The Leper because she has leprosy, but since the script didn’t have anyone actually say that, I can’t be sure.
Tony “I’ve been in every film ever made, but you’ll only remember me from Candyman” Todd crops up as the gas-huffing, sister-bothering Deucalion, King of Minos. You can tell he’s evil because his cape has a big collar on it and he looks terrific in a floor-length leather skirt and acrylic talons. He has all the best lines, like “Inhale the sweetness!” and, my personal fave, his exhortation to Princess Raphaella once she’s plunged into The Beast’s labyrinth: “Sister! Flee from this place!” Yah, bro – I think she’s on it.
The Minotaur and his labyrinth The labyrinth is smaller than you’d think. The Beast can be in every bit of it at once, but hasn’t worked out that all that’s keeping him from rampaging through the palace is a rickety wooden door right beside his bed. The Minotaur is as smart as he is ugly, and he’s a hideous freak of nature whose mere existence is an affront to heaven. The creature effects capture this quite well. This Minotaur is not so much a half-man/half-bull as it is a hairless, slavering prehistoric-looking carnivore with horns – I fondly nicknamed it “The Dino-Moo”. Good work, special effects team.
Science is very hard done by in Minotaur. The labyrinth is apparently the source of some sort of flammable gas that lights the palace above, and Deucalion likes to inhale it through an animal skull to get a bit of a buzz. Some people who inhale it cough to death, others have no reaction at all, and some get horny. When the gas is ignited, the resulting fireball is sometimes hot enough to dry out pools of water and sometimes not – it depends on which pools the main characters are hiding in.
On the biology front, Princess Raphaella explains how The Dino-Moo came to be. This is not strictly necessary, as the opening scene has already done it. Anyway, she’s trying to reassure Theo that The Dino-Moo is not, in fact, a supernatural and immortal entity. Unfortunately, her explanation raises more questions than it answers. In “Ancient Times” the “Old Ones” had commanded her mother, the Queen, to lie with a bull in order to beget a living god. The result was The Dino-Moo. “So don’t freak out, Theo. The Beast is just a genetic aberration, not a divine being, so you can totally kill it. I mean, pfft. A god born of a woman and a bull! That would be ridiculous. A mating between two utterly different species resulting in viable offspring is far more plausible. And don’t spend too much time thinking about the fact that that the Minotaur is my half-brother, or that according to the chronology I’ve just given you I’m, like, centuries old.”
Michelle van der Water is really pretty and copes well with playing a princess of antiquity who gallivants about in false eyelashes, body paint, high heels and precious little else. Bonus points for kick-starting the tamest girl-on-girl scene ever filmed.
A cheesy themed nightclub is as good a place to film your palace scenes as any other, and is an entirely apropos location for the tamest girl-on-girl scene ever filmed.
Rutger Hauer gets co-top billing on the DVD box. He has about two seconds of screen time, during which he’s dressed up like a hobo Santa. Then he does the sensible thing – he takes his cheque and fucks off.
Lex Shrapnel His name is Lex Shrapnel.
Snow-covered Wales does a poor job of looking like an island in the Mediterranean.
Nutrition There are many close-ups of rats as the kids are dropped into The Dino-Moo’s lair, so when Theo encounters a crazed survivor of a previous sacrificial group I thought it was obvious that he’d been eating rats. “I’ve been living on hope and rats!” he confirms. Two minutes later, when asked what the Minotaur eats between sacrificial groups of youths, the crazed survivor holds up a few dead rats. Then, in case Theo has poor eyesight, he helpfully says “Rats!” If I were a more cynical person, I would suspect that Nick Green and Stephen McDool had only written Minotaur to promote rats as part of a healthy diet.
The script and direction As you may have gathered, both are perfect for an audience that is both heavily intoxicated and deeply stupid. For example, when Theo finds a gigantic hoof print in the sand of the Minotaur’s labyrinth, he reverently traces it with his finger and breathes “The Beast!” – you know, in case the viewer thought some other massive cloven-footed creature was about to hove into view during a movie called Minotaur.
Don’t get me wrong – although it may seem this film is out to insult your intelligence, it’s really not. Director Jonathan English (Johnny English!) is smart enough to know that any audience able to sit the whole way through Minotaur sober needs all the help it can get following a very basic storyline. I will eat a rat if you can find me a better Sci-Fi Channel production about a group of people in Ugg boots running away from a deformed cow. A triumph.