If you somehow haven’t seen the Steven Spielberg classic “Jaws” by this point, then perhaps you were considering seeing the new survival thriller film “Beast” to serve as a replacement. Well, after seeing it in theaters this past week, let me tell you as a completely sympathetic movie watcher: don’t waste your time. While the feature film starring Idris Elba is almost identical to “Jaws” in approach, the actual “thrill” aspect of the films couldn’t be further apart. Instead of being a sufficient replacement for the classic survival thriller films of the ‘70s, “Beast” is so unbearable that the true thrill is in seeing if you can survive the entire hour and a half run without falling asleep.
It is utterly shocking that a movie about a rabid lion could be less engaging than your average sitcom, but sure enough, it was. I don’t think there was a single point in the movie that I found myself caring for any of the characters, and that’s not just because I’m extremely cynical. The characters not only felt like cardboard boxes monotonously reciting lines, but their development throughout the film was so generic that someone would have an easier time writing the lion’s character arc than the actual people we’re supposed to empathize with.
For one, the main character’s daughters, Norah (Leah Jeffries) and Meredith (Iyana Halley), felt completely useless to the plot. The entire function of their characters seemed to be to state the obvious in the form of expositional dialogue. Seriously, if Nate forgot the gun on the ground, one of his daughters would always be there to say something like “Daddy, the gun.” If one of them saw the lion coming, you could count on them to say something super obvious like “Look, the lion!” Or my personal favorite: If one of them was injured the other one would chime in to explicitly tell the audience in case they had nodded off while the supposedly “thrilling” lion attack was going on.
In one specific scene, when one of the daughters gets mauled by the lion in a brief encounter, her sister cries out for her dad by literally saying something along the lines of: “Daddy she’s wounded — from the lion” as if we somehow would’ve forgotten what was attacking them. Their entire screen presence felt so pointless that you could easily take them out of the film, and nothing would change other than the fact that you wouldn’t be constantly spoon-fed exposition the entire time.
Though not as useless as the daughters, the safari guide/friend of the family “Uncle Martin” (Sharlto Copley) was completely dreadful in every scene he was featured in. Just when I thought the dialogue couldn’t be worse than the constant exposition that came out of the daughters’ mouths, Martin would say something so counter-situational that it sounded like his lines were copied word for word from a different movie. His character was so dull that even an actor as skilled as Copley couldn’t do anything to bring life into him.
If you did a side-by-side comparison of his performance in “Beast” with his excellent performance in “District 9,” it would look as if he had a twin brother who had never acted before playing this role. In one particular scene, the group stumbles upon a torn-apart village that was recently destroyed by the lion. Martin says something like “Some of these were my friends” when describing the dead bodies that surround them. Only, rather than showing any grief in his words, he just moves past the situation as if nothing happened. There was no emotion in his delivery aside from panic, and the scene immediately panned away from what he said without a second thought. His lines were almost always useless, and his presence was only featured for practical immersion.
Surprisingly, the main character was perhaps the most boring and pointless character of them all. Despite Idris Elba’s recent glory, his performance in “Beast” might be enough to ruin his career. In all fairness, though, the primary downfall was the writing, once again: There was absolutely nothing interesting about his character. He’s a doctor who travels to Africa to see his deceased wife’s hometown and the wildlife surrounding it. That’s pretty much all there was to his character, other than the fact that he has two daughters who come with him. He has almost no emotional development, no distinct character traits, and, worst of all, no memorable lines in the entire movie. At least his daughters had some stupid lines of exposition that made an impression on the audience. If it weren’t for Elba’s recent stardom, I don’t think I would’ve even finished the movie considering how boring his character was.
With unbearable and useless characters, the film was already ruined. But somehow, the other elements of the movie were just as bad as the dialogue and the acting. The CGI, for instance, was so bad that my friend literally turned to me midway through the showing to ask if this was a video game. Additionally, there were a few dream sequences that I cannot for the life of me figure out why they were even included. They didn’t really reveal much other than he had a normal relationship with his wife who died of cancer, something that could’ve easily been dealt with without some mysterious dream sequence.
On that note, the entire backstory of his deceased wife was utterly pointless too since they bring up her death way too soon for anyone in the audience to care about it. They just randomly throw her death out there in an exchange between Nate and Martin around the 10-minute mark and expect the audience members to empathize despite just being introduced to the characters.
Though it shares the same survival thriller title as “Jaws,” “Beast” is a laughable attempt at re-imagining the same story. It honestly felt like somebody had seen the movie “Jaws,” said to themselves “this formula makes money” and then proceeded to deliver the most generic and lifeless movie of the year. There was literally not a single positive thing I can say about this film; “Beast” was probably the worst film I’ve ever seen.