On one hand, the fact that the movie industry is moving away from using actual animals as a part of the filming process must be seen as progress. On the other hand, the computer-generated effects used to create the lions in Beast lack believability, which diminishes the effectiveness of the film’s suspense. This is not to say that Beast should have taken the approach of films from the past, but there is no ignoring the fact that it may have made for a more exciting film.
When busy widowed father Dr. Nate Daniels (Idris Elba) takes his daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries) on a trip to South Africa in hopes of reconnecting with them, they end up in a battle for survival against a rogue lion with an attitude. They are joined by family friend and lion expert Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley) who takes them out on a tour of the savannah until finding a village that has been massacred by a lion with a taste for human flesh.
After a series of bad decisions by all characters involved, Daniels and his two daughters find themselves trapped in an incapacitated jeep in the wilderness. Without any means of communication or travel, their options are limited, keeping the narrative stuck in one place for much of the run-time. Even with the unconvincing special effects and basic plot, there are moments of effective suspense in Beast, but not quite enough to make the film praiseworthy. At best, it is passably entertaining for those willing to turn off their critical thinking skills and enjoy the ride.
As artificial as the CGI for the lions is, it somehow manages to be more convincing than the relationship drama between Daniels and his daughters. Elba’s real-life daughter auditioned for the movie but was no cast because the chemistry was off. While it seems that acting shouldn’t even be a factor when in a movie with your own father, the aspiring actress likely was not helped by the material. Halley may have been cast for being able to make it more believable than Elba’s actual daughter, but the storyline still comes off as obnoxious and forced, while predictably giving a character arc for the three protagonists as they fight off the angry lion. It all feels a little too obvious, padding the plot without giving the audience enough of a reason to care. It’s only slightly more believable than the animated lions.
The Blu-ray release for Beast also comes with a DVD and digital copy of the film. Along with three ways to watch, the special features include six featurettes and a deleted scene. With plenty of interviews from director Baltasar Kormákur, the featurettes discuss both the technical side of the filmmaking process as well as the story. Visual effects team members discuss the efforts put into making the final battle work, while members of the prosthetics department discuss the practical effects used to make the lion attacks believable. There is also a featurette about the locations studied to make the film as realistic as possible, and another about the true aspects of lion poaching which were used in the storyline.
In terms of the film’s story, there is a featurette about the development of the villainous lion serving as the antagonist. Kormákur provides his vision for the creature within the film. The last of the featurettes discuss the cast, and the significance of family in the storyline. Many of these extras feel like little more than promotional material intending to make the film seem more impressive than it is. For huge fans of the film, if there are any, they might be enjoyable. For anyone critical of the quality of filmmaking in Beast, as I was, the special features feel just a bit too self-congratulatory considering the end product.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 6/10