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.
Special Features: 6/10