In the new movie “Beast,” a monstrous lion gets a layered backstory like Liam Neeson’s in “Taken.”

Why is the fearsome Simba killing African villagers for sport, and hunting down Nate (Idris Elba) and his two young daughters (Leah Sawa Jeffries and Iyanna Hailey)? The wicked hunters made the big cat proud, it broke down and became wicked.

I never felt bad for the deadly creatures in “Jaws” or “Anaconda” or “Lake Placid.” But my heart goes out to this poor, murderous, widower lion, bent on avenging the death of the beloved cubs and the lioness.

Still, it’s a movie along the lines of the above three (in the opening scene one of Nate’s daughters even wears a “Jurassic Park” T-shirt) where we need the man (the good ones, anyway) to win. . We never put one down for a shark. No tears were shed for the Raptors! These stories are complicated, not emotionally complicated, and it just makes you feel awkward at the end.

After the death of his ex-wife, Nate brings his daughters away to Savannah. The couple spent happy years there – he as a doctor and his wife as a wildlife photographer – and they think it would be nice for the kids to join the place. What a nice idea.

On the first day there, they go on safari with Nate’s old friend Martin (Charlto Copley) and the group stumble upon a wooded, corpse-strewn village and find themselves face to face with Kitty Cat Cujo.

Their car, naturally, crashes into a tree and for the rest of the film they (stupidly) venture out of it, returning in terror and trying to escape from the creature.

There are some good scares of the jump variety, and Elba gives a subtle display given the circumstances. To give her character more oomph, the writers keep her at an emotional distance from her daughters because she believes she abandoned her ailing mother. A great way for a father to regain his children’s love is to save them from a ferocious lion.

But it all comes down to Mr Whiskers. The lion’s CGI animation is just enough, so even if it scares you, it never comes across as real. After a few initial adventures, director Baltasar Kormakur’s film stops to cheer as the creature has no more surprises left. He just jumps out the window – again.

And the final epic battle is laughable. In real life, Nate would be put to death in five seconds.

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