65: Not Enough Classic Dinos

It feels unfair to immediately compare any dinosaur movie to Jurassic Park (1993); however, it is such a good case study for why dinosaur films can work. First of all, dinosaurs are not just generic monsters, they are dinosaurs. They are fearsome but they also contain that idea of the sublime: awe inspiring creatures that inspire majesty as much as fear. The most mentioned moment of Jurassic Park is probably one involving a T-rex or a velociraptor, but the core of that film is in the sweeping shots that take in the herbivorous dinosaurs. Life beyond us, outside of us, ambivalent to us. A whole ecosystem that is so alive and so grand.

The core issue with 65 is that it does treat dinosaurs like they are generic monsters. They exist as antagonists only, feral beasts to come after our characters — or a little thing to be preyed upon by another dinosaur so as to establish that dino as a threat. What this means is that you could replace the dinosaurs in 65 with generic beasts and it would make no difference. There is nothing inherently ‘dinosaur’ about it. This sucks. This sucks because the supposed appeal of this movie is it is the one where Adam Driver is a space marine looking guy who crash lands on Earth 65 million years ago and is confronted with dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are the appeal, because dinosaurs are appealing. They are perennial favourites; interest in them is a mandatory stage of childhood (one that often extends into adulthood); liking dinosaurs is a hobby. And this is all because dinosaurs are cool because they are damn dinosaurs.

People have favourite dinosaurs, they learn dinosaur facts. People love dinosaurs. 65 just relies on a passive love of dinosaurs from the audience but the film itself does not love dinosaurs. The film couldn’t care less. As silly as it is to say, there just are not enough classic dinos in this movie. You don’t even get your basic staples like a stegosaurus or a triceratops. Sure, there’s a T-rex, but the T-rexes don’t have a sense of majesty, they are kind of just fodder. A key action sequence certainly involves at least one T-rex, or something T-rex adjacent, but not in an exciting way. They are a bland part of a bland looking film that, and here be slight spoilers, die like chumps. Once again, dinosaurs are just antagonists here; no awe or impact, just things to run from and shoot at.

This is a real shame, because in description this film completely rules. Space man crash lands in pre-historic Earth and his only means of escape is at the top of a mountain, kilometres away and with dinosaurs between him and there. And, oh no, he has to get there before the asteroid hits that’s about to wipe out the dinosaurs, and it is hitting very soon. That is incredibly dumb and is the perfect setup for a slick and silly actioner. But we don’t start here. We start by establishing this as sad dad cinema and by defining Adam Driver through as much plot-device women and girls as possible. Scene one has him bonding with his daughter, his wife is there too, and we find out that his daughter has some kind of condition that will take her life without expensive treatment and daddy has to take to the stars in order to make the money to keep her alive. He’s sad about it, of course, he’s a sad space dad in the continuing era of sad space dad cinema (a genre I am starting to profoundly dislike, as shown by my Moonfall (2022) review). These female characters exist around him to be emitters of sadness: radiators of emotion that will wash characterisation over our gruff and undefined male lead. He’s a dad you see.

Because he’s a dad, when the ship crashes, he finds a new plot-girl! Yes, one other person survived the crash and it is a young girl, about his daughter’s age, that lets him continue to be defined in relation to his paternal qualities. He and this girl, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), journey to an escape pod but not even that is enough, we need more plot and complication. For no reason, apart from making the film worse because it means we don’t get any dialogue that would build character (and that would create an investment in this film), Koa doesn’t speak English (or whatever language this is in fiction — galactic common or whatever). Every exchange is Adam Driver talking to her like she’s an infant, expecting her to pick up language from him (to help them) while making no effort to learn any of her words or wider language. After all, she only exists to give him definition and purpose, she doesn’t give him language! It is a very irritating dynamic that limits what the film can do. Koa is also written as just generally annoying. Though, she is clearly a genius as at one point she hears Driver’s character (he’s called Mills but that name is so forgettable I will keep reminding you that, yes, Adam driver is in this) exclaim ‘shit’, which she repeats (of course). It seems she has inherent understanding of the type of humour you can get in a PG-13 movie, but it doesn’t stop here. Later she comes across some faeces and is actually able to connect Driver’s random cursing to this item. That’s really damn impressive. Or the script is just terrible. It’s the latter.

After all this plot setup, we are left with a nothing of a film. It is just a lot of quietness, because the film has given no room for actual dialogue, then there’s a jump-scare moment. This happens so frequently that it becomes supremely annoying. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. LOUD NOISE AND SUDDEN MOVEMENT. And then, usually, back to nothing. It has some action sequences, but they are pretty dull (or just poorly staged) and it has bad dino representations. Where are all those classic dinos? It is a film that should be dumb fun but is actually utterly soporific, when it is not screaming in your ear. This movie shouldn’t be boring, with this premise and at this runtime (a supposedly tight 93 minutes) but it is. A premise first execution still to be decided mess that should be in some straight to DVD bargain basement, not on cinema screens.


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