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The Ending Of Beast Explained

Idris Elba and Sharlto Copley star in "Beast," a film which promises audiences one thing: a showcase of man versus lion in a tense mortal struggle to survive. The action film more than lives up to its original premise, with director Baltasar Kormákur ("Contraband," "Everest") lending an auteur's touch to the timeless plot premise of man being pitted against the harshness of nature. The film is a fairly straightforward affair, with a small amount of characters and a limited number of scenic sets, but that only adds to the feeling of claustrophobia and an intimate view of the terror these folks experience throughout the film's runtime.

"Beast" is all about a bloodthirsty lion who begins hunting people on a South African game preserve, and over time, we learn exactly why it is that this creature is so hellbent on killing. We also see that this hunter is quite successful in his endeavor to destroy all of the human beings in its path — at least, until it is not. Countering the beast is Elba's character Dr. Nate Samuels, a man who is seeking to heal his beleaguered family with their initial journey into the wild and is driven by family and forgiveness to survive once the slaughter session threatens to include him and his kids. Even though "Beast" is not complicated, there are some deeper themes that inform the story throughout, so read on as we explain the ending in great detail.

Nate takes his family to South Africa for a very good reason

"Beast" stars famed British actor Idris Elba as Dr. Nate Samuels, a divorced man whose ex-wife dies of cancer, leaving his two daughters without a mother. In an attempt to help his teen daughters understand her better, he brings them on a vacation to her home country of South Africa. There, they meet up with Nate's old friend Martin, played by South African star Sharlto Copley of "District 9" fame. Martin is a wildlife biologist who works on a protected game preserve. He is a friend to the locals and the animals who inhabit the area, and he knew both Nate and his late ex-wife back when they were young.

This family trip out to South Africa is intended to bring Nate closer with his daughters, played by Leah Jeffries and Iyana Halley, since their compounded family tragedies have strained their relationship. While the trip doesn't exactly play out as he expected, the family does manage to bond over the course of their violent and harrowing adventure, but that is just how it goes when you are up against a homicidal apex predator — you either learn to trust each other in order to work together, or you get brutally ripped apart by a vengeful lion. 

The lion has his reasons

It is completely normal for lions to be quite territorial and capable of killing just about anything they come across; that's the nature of life on the top of the food chain. Still, the lion in "Beast" is uncharacteristically savage compared to the real thing and for good reason.

The opening scene of "Beast" explains the lion's origin story, showing poachers murdering an entire pride of lions — except for one. It is explained throughout the movie that, for humans and lions alike, family is the most important thing. When the lion's entire family is murdered in the blink of an eye, something snaps in its psyche, reducing the feline patriarch to a vengeful creature of violence with no purpose in life other than to murder every human it comes across as payback for the poachers' previous massacre. 

When the lion comes across Nate and his family, it attacks them because it associates all humans with the poachers who killed its family. Early on, it even injures Martin to set a trap, echoing how the poachers used a fresh zebra corpse as bait to kill the lion's entire pride. While the lion has been reduced to a savage, feral beast, the audience can't help but feel sorry for the creature, since it was initially cruel human intervention that turned such a previously proud creature into a vicious, merciless monster in the first place. Certainly, Nate should understand what type of bloodlust might accompany losing his loved ones to a killer species.

The lion claims many victims

The lion scores quite a few kills during the movie . It takes out many poachers and massacres an entire village full of innocent people. As for main characters, though, there is a bit more plot armor in play to protect them all, so the lion only kills one of the top-billed characters. Idris Elba is the main character, and since it would be a grisly film indeed that would kill him or his little girls, it is the "best friend" of the story who has to go, ultimately. It is almost a foregone conclusion from the start of the story that Martin is poised to die instead of our central family of heroes in "Beast," but we still have to wait for that eventuality to unfold. 

The good news is, at least the character goes out like a pro and on his own terms. When the lion attacks Martin and the girls, Martin shoos the kids out of their vehicle. While wrestling with the lion, the vehicle slides down a steep hill, injuring Martin and causing gasoline to leak all over the place. When the lion attacks, Martin pulls out his lighter and ignites the gas, causing a massive explosion that causes his own death but also burning the lion, who does walk away but has hideous scars and a slower step for the rest of the film. Not only does Martin die protecting Nate's children from harm — and thus earning some serious hero status for his final act — he also does significant damage to the lion. He still dies, of course, but at least he goes out with a bang.

Nate fights the lion in single combat

After spending the whole movie running from the lion, with his kids in tow, Nate ultimately decides that he has to take matters into his own hands and confront the lion, once and for all, if he wants to finally put an end to the wild mayhem. He forms a plan to defeat the lion, but it depends on surviving a prolonged melee scuffle he has no chance to win. Nate hides his kids in a safe spot inside an abandoned building and runs outside, goading the lion into chasing him down.

When the lion catches up, the two engage in a pulse-pounding fight. Despite being armed with a knife and fueled by adrenaline and the pure desire to protect his family, it's quickly obvious that Nate doesn't stand a chance against his clawed, four-legged foe here. Still, he does get some surprisingly good blows in, including a couple of credulity-stretching (but nonetheless awesome) punches. The fight is shown in savage detail, with Nate getting cut open by the lion's claws, receiving numerous wounds all over his body. Nevertheless, he fights on because he knows it's only a matter of time before his trap is finally sprung.

Lions are territorial creatures

The real reason Nate chooses to fight the lion has nothing to do with his ability to actually fight the beast in one-on-one combat. He knows his chances of overcoming the animal with his bare hands are slim to none. In actuality, it's all about his choice of battlefield. The fight is on the territory of another pride of lions. He is remembering that earlier in the film, Martin explained to him the territorial nature of lions to Nate. He can invite the lions to come and cuddle with him on the outskirts of their territory, but if he were to try to encroach on their land, the male lions would tear him apart like a wounded gazelle.

As it turns out (and as Nate fully intends to happen), the local pride of lions notices the fight between Nate and his feline opponent, and they're not happy about it. They do not acknowledge Nate as a threat (seeing as how he is a middle-aged doctor losing a fight against a giant feral beast), but they still do not like the sight of a strange lion hunting on their territory. The males of the pride step in, saving Nate's life and fighting the interloper to the death. Severely injured from its burns and numerous stab wounds, and outnumbered two to one, the villainous lion goes down quickly, though the film cuts away before the audience gets to see the killing blow. It is implied that Nate passes out from his wounds before he can see the fight reach its natural conclusion, but there is no doubt about it: That lethal lion is finally dead.

The epilogue

The final two scenes in "Beast" capture the aftermath of Nate's battle with the lion. In the first, he is in the hospital, where he is being treated for his multitude of wounds. His daughter, Mere, was also attacked by the lion earlier in the film, but she was also successfully treated for her injuries. Luckily, the younger daughter, Norah, managed to avoid sustaining any physical injuries during the harrowing adventure, though everyone in the family will surely need some sort of trauma therapy after all the death and destruction they witnessed during their devastating encounter.

The final scene in the film shows Nate and his girls out in the veldt again, watching a flock of birds. Nate is walking with a cane, suggesting he's on his way to a full recovery. Meanwhile, Mere snaps a beautiful, black and white photograph of the scene as the family finally gets to have the safari vacation they came to South Africa to experience. After all they've been through, they certainly earned it.

Nate's troubled family situation

At the outset of "Beast," Nate and his daughters are not a close-knit family unit. In fact, Nate and his ex-wife separated, and he left the family — one of his daughters even accuses him of abandoning them. While the film doesn't go fully in-depth as to why Nate's marriage fell apart, it is clear that Nate never really stopped loving his ex-wife. In fact, when someone tells him that they believed he and his wife would get back together and work things out, he wistfully agrees. Had she not gotten sick and died, it is entirely possible Nate and his wife may have reconciled and remarried to reunite the family.

Regardless, Nate has not been the best father to his daughters. He is distant and somewhat cold to them, though he at least goes through the motions of being a caring patriarch. One of the film's most emotionally impactful moments (not involving a vicious lion attack) sees Mere show off her photos to Martin, who takes an interest in the teenage girl's hobby, a hobby she shared with her late mother. Mere then accuses her father of failing to take as much of an interest in her passion. It is not until later in the film that Nate explains to his daughter that he is pained by the similarities between Mere and her mother. Seeing Mere reminds Nate of his failure to keep his marriage intact, as well as the woman he lost twice — first to divorce, and then to cancer. Thus, as much as the film is about Nate grappling with a literal beast, it is also about his struggle to tame the terrifying feelings of failure he has within himself.

Nate reconciles with his family

Over the course of their quest for survival, Nate and his daughters do manage to get closer. First of all, there is the bonding that is inherent with making it through a harrowing situation, and few situations are more harrowing than being chased by an angry lion. Nate works together with his daughters to survive. One scene has Nate armed with a tranquilizer rifle while his younger daughter, Norah, hands him darts. She even saves him by sticking the lion with a loose dart. Likewise, when Mere is wounded by the lion, Nate puts his doctor skills to use. He carries her to safety and performs some rudimentary surgery on her, treating her wounds to minimize her bleeding.

By the end of the movie, Nate has gone through a true crucible, proving his dedication to protecting his family. Likewise, his daughters have learned just how much their father cares for them, and seen firsthand the lengths to which he will go to protect them. A good father will do anything to protect his family — or to avenge them — and, ultimately, his hopes of having this getaway strengthen his bond with the girls is successful ... even if it is not exactly the way he intended it to work.

There are three families in Beast

Family is a major theme in "Beast," with both main characters, Nate and the lion, driven by their love for their family. However, while Nate is fighting to protect his family, the lion is fighting to take vengeance on humans, having lost its family to villainous poachers. The lion is fueled by a feral mixture of grief and revenge and associates all humans with the poachers who murdered its family. While the animal obviously takes its feelings too far, murdering an entire village of innocent people and hunting Nate and his family, the lion does have a genuine grievance with mankind and even a tinge of righteousness to its cause.

Finally, the third family featured in the film is the pride of lions that ultimately kills the feral antagonist. They are doing exactly what their nature dictates they do: protect their family from any interlopers. They are doing exactly what the feral lion was unable to do, though it is hard to blame the feral lion. It w as not another lion that killed his pride, or even villagers armed with blades and nets; his pride was wiped out in seconds by trained killers armed with guns. When they used unnatural technology to massacre the lions, his life as a lion patriarch ended and he became a monster, only interested in killing as many humans as possible.

Beast is about the relationship between humans and animals

The lion in "Beast" turns feral as a direct result of unnatural intervention by humans, but the movie points does ultimately contend that humans and nature can peacefully coexist. Humans have a place in the natural ecosystem, as long as they do not overstep their boundaries or enter into a mindset that sees animal life as cheap and disposable, as the poachers have done. Early on in the story, Martin is seen playing with full-sized lions on the outskirts of their pride's territory. However, when he attempts to venture closer to one of the females to inspect a wound on her paw, the males make it clear he will tear him apart if he gets too close to their turf. Fittingly, these are the same lions that ultimately kill the feral lion in the film's finale.

Also, before they are attacked by the lion, Nate and his daughters are enjoying their safari, admiring nature from a distance and snapping photos they will treasure forever. Notably, the final scene of the film shows the trio back on the veldt, taking pictures with the beauty of nature all around them. Despite their terrifying ordeal, Nate and his kids know that nature is something to be respected and protected, not feared and hated because of an anomaly triggered by mankind's unwarranted intervention. The final message "Beast" sends to the audience is a plea to respect and appreciate the beauty of the natural world and not take these amazing creatures for granted.