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Film / The Beast

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A 1996 made for TV-movie adaptation of Peter Benchley's book Beast. The film makes some radical changes from the book, while maintaining its basic plot: a giant squid is terrorizing a community and must be stopped.

Starring William Petersen.

Tropes Found In This Work Include:

  • Adaptation Name Change: The book's Whip Darling is now Whip Dalton.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Goes from a Bermuda setting to an island off the coast of Washington State.
  • Age Lift: Whip's daughter Dana is a teenager, whereas in the novel she is in her mid-20s.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • When the baby squid is shot to death, it bleeds red. Squids, being molluscs, have copper-based blood rather than iron-based, resulting in blood which is a milky blue or teal in colour rather than red.
    • And about their blood: Squids, especially giant squids, can't survive in the shallows for prolonged periods, because their circulation is significantly weaker than ours. Their haemocyanin can only efficiently transport oxygen in colder, deeper water. Granted, smaller squids don't mind the shallows, but for giant squids, whose bodies are bigger and therefore need more oxygen, need the depths so badly to breathe, that they only come up to the surface when they're either sick or dying.
    • Squidsnote  don't give a damn about their offspring at all and in some cases even eat them, and also they don't give birth to single offspring, instead laying large numbers of eggs (and dying soon after). This is an example of artistic license in the film only, since the twist at the end of the novel involves the squid's numerous offspring proliferating after it is killed.
    • Squids, like most non-mammalian sea life, are mute, and do not roar.
    • Squids can't eat mammals, because warm-blooded animals lack the nutrients they find in their usual prey, like fish, crustaceans, and other squid.
    • The movie constantly portrays the squid swimming forward, with its tentacles in front. While squids can swim this way, they usually only do so when attacking their prey, and otherwise swim backward with the tentacles trailing behind them.
  • Brains Evil, Brawn Good: Hero Whip Dalton is a brawny fisherman, while the villainous Schuyler Graves is a classic bespectacled nerd—at one point, Dalton even sneers at him about his "Harvard education" as though this is something to be ashamed of. Dalton also sneers at him about how "you're still the same creepy little kid you always were", indicating that Dalton either (a) bullied him back during their school days and has no remorse over doing so, or worse yet, (b) protected him from bullies and now regrets doing so. All of which is presented as perfectly okay, especially since Graves proves himself to be more and more of a jerk as the movie progresses.
  • Canon Foreigner: Schuyler Graves, Kathryn Marcus, and Christopher don't exist in the book, however, Marcus is a gender swapped version of Marcus Sharpe, as noted below.
  • Composite Character: Kathryn Marcus is a composite of Marcus Sharp (Whip's best friend in the book) and Marcus' dead girlfriend (and Gwen Stacy) Karen.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Schuyler Graves basically runs the town of Graves Point simply because he owns a profitable business and the town carries his name.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Talley survives in the book.
    • Whip's wife is also alive and well throughout the novel.
  • Developing Doomed Characters:
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: The squid in the novel is killed when its struggling after being wounded attracts a sperm whale, which eats it. In the film it's killed when it's caught in a boat explosion.
  • Dirty Coward: To save his own political career and keep his ass off the line, Graves tries (and fails) at every opportunity to back out of the final showdown. When he gets roped into it anyway, he takes the only life boat to head back to shore, abandoning everyone else. He doesn't make it.
  • Disposable Woman:
    • It is painfully obvious that Talley's assistant Christopher's sole purpose for even existing is to be a male version of this to Whip's daughter Dana thanks to their Love at First Sight meeting. A review of the film even snarked about this.
    • Whip's wife, even though she died long before the story proper. The fact that she's alive in the book makes it highly likely that TPTB eliminated her character to facilitate Whip's romance with Kathryn Marcus, as well as add a main female role to the climax, as the book finale focuses solely on Whip, Osborn Manning, Marcus Sharp, and Herbert Talley, who are all male characters.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The sight of Schuyler Graves returning from the mainland with a bag of—gasp!—golf clubs is supposedly enough to tell the audience that he's a rich jerk who only cares about making money.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: A dog seems to sense the squid's presence and barks ferociously.
  • Film of the Book
  • Giant Squid: The titular beast.
  • Idiot Ball: Manning fills the harpoons with a sedative instead of cyanide, in order to bring the squid back to his ocean park in Texas, thus endangering everyone present.
  • Improbable Taxonomy Skills: The resident scientist instantly identifies the squid as Archetuthis dux from a single sucker-claw and a whiff of ammonia. Especially egregious because Architeuthis, aka the giant squid, doesn't have claws. The colossal squid Mesonychoteuthis does, though. And most deep-sea squid have a lot of ammonia in their systems.
  • In Name Only: The film changes so much of the material that pretty much the only things they share are a giant man-eating squid and the main character being named Whip.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Graves is portrayed as a jerk for only wanting the creature dead to return the town to prosperity, but given that tourism and fishing are the chief sources of income and that both have been badly affected, that's actually a completely legitimate reason.
    • He's also seen as a sniveling coward for not wanting to go out on the squid-catching expedition, but he's right—there's no reason for him to go, and with his complete lack of knowledge about boats, he'd be a hindrance. It would be like if Brody, Hooper and Quint demanded that Mayor Vaughn accompany them shark-hunting.
  • Kill It with Fire: How the squid is dealt with.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Manning gets killed by the squid after not killing it because he wants to put it on display, and Graves gets killed after cowardly abandoning everyone on the boat to take the only life raft and head back to shore. Talley, who survives the book, aligns with Manning's plan in the telefilm, and thus he gets killed by karma when the squid sinks Whip's boat.
  • The Lost Lenore: Whip's wife, who loved to dive, died at sea at the Admiral Burnham wreck, which is why he so adamantly refuses to take two young divers there even though they offer a substantial payment.
  • Mama Bear: The squid turns out to be a mother, and gets very mad when her child is killed.
  • Only in It for the Money:
    • Graves only facilitates action against the squid to be rid of it and return Graves Point to prosperity.
    • During the climax Osborn Manning reveals he didn't poison the squid as planned, but sedated it so he could put it on display.
  • Recycled Premise: The Beast is essentially a re-hash of Jaws and its sequels. Based on a Peter Benchley novel? Check. Giant marine predator terrorizing a small maritime town? (1,2,3,4) Check. A dog in peril? (1) Check. Corrupt Corporate Executive? (1,2,3) Check. Capturing the animal you think is responsible only for it to be a Red Herring? (1,3) Check. An expert obsessed with catching the creature, only to be killed by it? (1) Check. Climactic final battle at sea with the creature? (1,2,3,4) Check. Creature dies in an explosion during said final battle? (1, 3, and most versions of 4) Check. There's even talk of the squid being out for revenge.(Mostly 4, but also 3, as both creatures are mothers seeking to avenge the capture and death of their infant)
  • Red Herring: Halfway through the film, they think they've caught the squid, but it's only the baby.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The mother squid in the second half goes on a rampage after the death of its child.
    • In the novel, Manning's main drive to kill the squid is because it killed his children while they were scuba diving.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Whip refuses to take a young couple to dive the dangerous Admiral Burnham wreck, even when they offer him $1,000.
    • Whip attempts this repeatedly in the novel as the desperate Manning tries to hire him to take him out to kill the squid. Manning wants revenge, as in the novel, the squid killed his children, but Whip understands how dangerous and foolhardy it is to try to kill the giant squid, and keeps turning down Manning's lucrative offers. He ultimately caves when Manning buys the promissory note to Whip's house and hints at eviction. With no other options, Whip forces manning to burn the promissory note, forgiving the debt, and demands $40,000 to be kept in escrow for his wife if he doesn't return from the trip before agreeing to Manning's demands.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After it's been revealed that the beast was not poisoned but sedated and might wake up soon, Graves takes the only life raft and high tails it, leaving everyone else at the mercy of the beast. He pays the ultimate price for that decision.
  • Shout-Out: At least one TV critic likened the above-mentioned scene with the dog to the one in Jaws, the difference being that this time, the canine survives.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: As Whip lectures and belittles him about his rich background, Graves hits back with:
    "What, I'm supposed to feel guilty because I didn't drop out of school and go broke like you did?"
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Kathryn survives even though one of the characters she's based on is killed in the book, as does Mike. The other novel character, Marcus Sharp, survives along with Whip and the novel's Herbert Talley.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Instead of poisoning the giant killer sea monster, just sedate it so you can tow it back to the mainland in a boat? Definitely no ways that that could backfire.
  • Too Happy to Live: Subverted. Mike is injured from his encounter with the squid, but lives, despite being Happily Married, African-American, and with a baby on the way.
  • Tyrannical Town Tycoon: Schuyler Graves basically runs the town of Graves Point (to the point that it's seemingly named after him), by virtue of being the harbour master and owning profitable businesses in town.

Alternative Title(s): Beast