Idris Elba’s film will make you miss “Anaconda”.

In the new movie Beast, a demonic lion gets a multi-layered backstory just like he’s Liam Neeson in Taken.

Why does Scary Simba kill African villagers for fun while determinedly hunting down Nate (Idris Elba) and his two young daughters (Leah Sava Jeffries and Iyana Halley)? Evil poachers stole the pride of the big cat, he snapped and turned rogue.

Movie review

Running time: 93 minutes. Rated
Rated R (Violent content, gory visuals and some language.) In theaters.

I don’t recall ever feeling sorry for the deadly creatures in Jaws, Anaconda, or Lake Placid. But my heart went out to this poor, murderous, widowed lion, out to avenge the deaths of sweet cubs and lionesses.

Still, following the trio above (in an early scene, one of Nate’s daughters even wears a Jurassic Park t-shirt, this is a movie) where we want the men (the good guys, anyway) to win. We never poured one for the shark. No tears were shed for raptors! These stories are campy, not emotionally complex, and this one ends up feeling bad.

Nate (Idris Elba) protects one of his daughters (Leah Sava Jeffries). "Animal."
Nate (Idris Elba) protects one of his daughters (Leah Sava Jeffries) in “Beast.”
Lauren Mulligan/Un

Nate takes his daughters to faraway savannah after his ex-wife dies. The couple spent happily ever after there – he as a doctor and his wife as a wildlife photographer – and he thinks it would do the kids well to connect with the place. What a great idea it turned out.

On their first day there, they go on safari with Nate’s old friend Martin (Sharlto Copley) and the group stumbles across a devastated, dead body-strewn village and comes face to face with Kitty Cat Cujo.

Their car crashes into a tree, of course, and the rest of the movie consists of them (idiotically) venturing out, returning terrified, and trying to avoid the creature, to no avail.

Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) fends off a killer cat.
Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) fends off a killer cat.
Universal images

There are some decent jump variant scares, and Elba delivers a subtle performance given the circumstances. To add zest to his character, the writers emotionally distanced him from his daughters, believing he abandoned their ailing mother. A great way for a father to win back his children’s love is by protecting them from a rampant lion.

But it all depends on Mr. Whiskers. The lion’s CGI animation is only adequate so that while it scares you, it never seems entirely real. After some initial thrills, director Baltasar Kormákurs’ film falters because the creature has run out of surprises. He just jumps through the window – again.

And the final epic fight is ridiculous. In real life, Nate would be beaten to death in five seconds. Idris Elba’s film will make you miss “Anaconda”.

Emma Bowman

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