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Literature / Peter Benchley's Creature

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Creature, originally known as White Shark, is a horror-thriller novel by the author of Jaws, the late Peter Benchley.

It is about a humanoid monster, known as Der Weisse Hai, or 'The White Shark' designed by Those Wacky Nazis that terrorizes a small New England coastline. It follows a similar format to Jaws, but is certainly its own tale.

In 1998, it got a TV movie / miniseries adaptation starring Craig T. Nelson, Kim Cattrall, Giancarlo Esposito, and Colm Feore, but this movie was only very loosely based on the novel.

Tropes present in both the book and the movie:

  • Chekhov's Gun: The decompression chamber.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Der Weisse Hai is killed by being trapped in a decompression chamber and exploded.
  • The Hero: Dr. Simon Chase
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Was renamed from White Shark for the movie. The Book's title eventually followed suit.
  • Jerkass: Pucket
  • Mad Scientist: The scientist who created the monster. Different characters in each version. The novel has a Captain Ersatz of Josef Mengele while the movie had a more generic one.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The aforementioned sea lions
  • Shark Man: Averted in the novel and played straight in the movie. In the novel, Der Weisse Hai has some shark like features and predatory instincts, but it is just a modified human being. The movie version however is a shark with human genes spliced in at the embryonic stage.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: In both versions, the monster is sealed within some form of box and lost at the bottom of the ocean until being accidentally released.
  • Self-Deprecation: A large amount of how humans react with hysteria and blaming the shark, the presence of a nonthreatening, perfectly normal great white was Benchley's way of bashing himself for Jaws, which he'd come to regret demonizing sharks in.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Justified in that the creature was bred for combat. Played straighter in the book where it actually eats what it kills.
  • Threatening Shark: Subverted. There is a pregnant great white shark, but it doesn't pose much threat to the protagonists. Later played straight in the novel, when the great white shark is spooked by the presence of Der Weisse Hai, it instinctively realizes that the creature is related to humans, and to protect its territory, it attacks all humans near it. Also, in the movie, the creature itself is part shark, and could therefore count.
  • The Worf Effect: The great white is killed by the creature in both versions, but it's killed much easier in the film (she fights back in the book and once even tries to kill and eat the monster).

Tropes present in only the book:

  • Accidental Hero: The actual great white shark attacking the creature diverts it from killing a pair of Skinny dippers.
  • The Atoner: Ernst Kruger's former assistant, who wants to help capture and destroy Der Weisse Hai (which he helped to create) before it can hurt anyone else.
  • Badass Bookworm: Chase, after he mans up and kills the monster using a decompression chamber.
  • Badass Native: Tall Man.
    "Maybe it isn't interested in six and a half feet of redskin Terminator.
  • Cassandra Truth: Jeffrey, a skinny dipper, feels one wave vibrations from the creature underneath them. But when he tells her, she thinks he's playing on her fear of the deep and angrily swims ashore.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Bixler, one of Chase's friends/employees, who takes care of Max and Elisabeth sometimes.
  • The Dutiful Son: Franks' son Rudi, who accompanies him in his hunt for the Creature.
  • Evil Poacher: Greatly downplayed with Toby and Chester, a pair of kids hunting on private property (one of whom falls victim to the creature, while the other becomes the first surviving victim to fully see it up close).
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Buck Bellamy, who is attacked by the creature (along with his brother) while testing out a new underwater communications system he's hoping to patent.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After Rusty sees the creature and lives to tell the tale, he goes straight to a local bar, puts down a $50 bill and says to keep giving him drinks until that money runs out. And when he finally gets kicked out three hours later he just heads straight to another bar.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Nate Green, the local reporter, is always looking around suspicious stuff to see if there could be a story and is one of the first to agree with Simon that there could be something out there.
  • "Jaws" First-Person Perspective: Several scenes are from the POV of Der Weisse Hai.
  • Major Injury Under Reaction: Der Weisse Hai certainly wasn't worried about having a huge slash on his chest and having one of his fingers hanging by a thread.
  • Mean Boss: Bem Madeira bosses around his mate (whose father employs his brother as a gardener) a lot.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Mr. Franks, a concentration camp prisoner drafted to be Kruger's lab assistant, was also one of his only surviving test subjects (although he didn't undergo the same level of alterations that the creature did).
  • Prophet Eyes: Der Weisse Hai is described as having dead, pale eyes.
  • Serendipitous Survival: When Rusty is attacked in his boat, he only escapes the shark by leaping back, hitting the throttle hard with his shoulder and causing the boat to go zooming forward, away from the creature.
  • Serial Killer: Der Weisse Hai was this pre-experiment.
  • Shady Real Estate Agent: One who wants to buy the island and sell it to a reclusive prince has been trying to undermine Simon with frivolous court proceedings.
  • The Stoner: Local diver Brian Bellamy, who got addicted to pot while serving in the army near the Mexican border, leaving him in a constantly mellow state.
  • Super-Soldier: Der Weisse Hai was meant to be this, but was incomplete when released.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Since when did Nazis have the technology to make aquatic super soldiers?
  • Token Minority: Tall Man is an American Indian and Elisabeth is deaf.
  • The Reveal: The creature is described very little for most of the plot until one of the men who helped created it reveals its true nature and origin.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The creators of the monster.
  • Uptown Girl: Simon's ex-wife was a wealthy society girl equally committed to environmentalist causes, but who wanted to do more through fundraising and the like, while he preferred to go into the field.
  • Was Once a Man: Der Weisse Hai was created by surgically modifying a human into an amphibious super soldier. The resulting creature only vaguely resembles a person and has very little of its former personality or intelligence.

Tropes present in only the film:

  • Adaptational Badass: The Creature itself is a downplayed example. While certainly threatening in the novel, the movie version is much more powerful and effective. For a good example, see the trope right below.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Tall Man. In the novel, he's a straight up badass, and nearly gives as good as he gets with the creature. Here, its a Curb-Stomp Battle. Granted he does better than everyone else and it's more a matter of the creature being far stronger than it was in the book.
  • Armies Are Evil: Possibly the Aesop of this story, and it isn't subtle.
  • Canon Foreigner: Lt. Thomas Peniston AKA Werewolf, one of the scientists involved in the creation of the creature. In fact, the entire staff behind the creation of the creature is completely different than in the book, going from Those Wacky Nazis to US Navy scientists. The creature itself is also a case of this to an extent: it is a completely different thing altogether in the movie and even has a completely different personality.
  • Death by Adaptation: Ben Madeira, a man who helps rich people fish for Great Whites is killed in the adaptation, instead of his assistant, who was killed in the novel
  • Flawed Prototype: It's implied the creature was the prototype of the dolphin/shark mash ups that were created later. However, where they can be trained, it's far too vicious, powerful, and intelligent.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The creature is this in this version. Its half man, half great white shark.
  • Hybrid Power: Predictably, the Creature has the advantages of a shark and those of a human, without the liabilities. Except, evidently, a human's vulnerability to Explosive Decompression.
  • Ignored Expert: Chase and his family. No one believes him except Tall Man.
  • It Can Think: It's discovered the creature has been manually dismantling and rebuilding traps and sets an ambush in the swamps to take out an entire squad of armed soldiers. It's also implied it's smart enough to be sadistic and kill for fun.
  • LEGO Genetics: Hoo boy. Apparently because Philogeny recapitulates ontogeny, you can mix in the DNA of a human into a shark and create a fertile hybrid. That's right, somehow it can reproduce with a plain old vanilla great white shark! This also works on Dolphins.
  • Living Weapon: The creature was made to be a biological weapon in the war. It's implied one reason the creature is actively sadistic and murderous is because of this.
  • Off with His Head!: A victim of the creature is beheaded and his head is stuffed in a trap.
  • Oh, Crap!: The entire present cast's reaction to the seemingly beached and dying monster evolving into its second form capable of moving on land.
  • Perpetual-Motion Monster: It survived trapped in a tank underwater for 30 some odd years, unable to eat or even move enough to get water through its gills.
  • Race Lift: Because of the relocation to a Caribbean island, nearly the entire cast. Chase's family were immune. Even the characters that where already minorities. This also has the unfortunate side effect of making the character of Elisabeth much more generic.
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: A Type one: most everything is changed about the movie. Its not the most extreme example of this trope as the base plot looks kind of similar to the novel, if you squint really hard, but all the specifics and details are changed and only a scant few scenes are adapted directly from the novel.
  • Space Whale Aesop: You shouldn't 'play God' or else you might make a super deadly Shark Man! A rare example that also overlaps with Fantastic Aesop.
  • Super Prototype: It's implied the creature was the prototype of the shark/dolphin hybrids the same project created. Its first action upon breaking free was the kill them all in seconds.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The military personnel decide to hunt the creature at night in the middle of a bog. Turns out just the way you'd suspect.
  • Uncanny Valley: In the novel, part of what makes the creature so unsettling is the revelation that he is a modified human.

Alternative Title(s): White Shark, Creature 1998