|Synopsis||Two survivors of a space ship crash must traverse across a prehistoric landscape filled with dinosaurs in order to potentially reach safety and fly home.|
|Length||1 hour, 33 minutes|
|Release Date||March 10, 2023|
|Distribution||Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)|
|Directing||Scott Beck, Bryan Woods|
|Writing||Scott Beck, Bryan Woods|
|Composition||Chris Bacon (music by), Danny Elfman (co composer)|
|Starring||Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt|
I once was a Dino Ranger. Seriously, that was my official job title. I found myself with a gig at a tourist hotspot that hosted a collection of animatronic dinosaurs. I never ceased to be amazed at how knowledgeable some children were on the topic of prehistoric creatures. It seems like a phase that every child goes through, before the interest wanes when they get older, except for the select few who go on to study the time period on a professional level. For whatever reason, people innately hold a fascination with dinosaurs—even those whose interest is only casual, dinosaurs still seem pretty cool to the masses. So it’s bizarre that only two franchises in cinema have monopolized the usage of these prehistoric creatures: Jurassic Park and The Land Before Time. There are a few cameos within the world of King Kong, and that’s about it apart from a poor indie flick from time to time.
Both of those franchises have spawned a gross amount of sequels, to the point where they’ve exhausted themselves. So what’s next? These classic beasts are now up for grabs, so will 65 be the film to take the lead in the future of dinosaur-focussed narratives?
Violence/Scary Images: The whole premise of this film involves two people trekking across a dinosaur-infested landscape. So there are many instances where big scary reptiles jump out at our protagonists and try to eat them (or eat each other). Aggressive creatures are shot to pieces (one is bludgeoned). Some blood and gore—there’s a close up on an open wound which needs immediate medical attention. A creature’s skin is burnt off. Some explosions. Corpses are seen following a space ship crash. A scene revolves around a dislocated limb.
Language/Crude Humor: The s-word is said a few times, even by a little girl. Some other minor swears, whilst God’s name is used in vain as a character gasps in pain.
Drug/Alcohol References: None.
Sexual Content: None.
Spiritual Content: None.
Other Negative Content: A character contemplates and almost commits suicide.
Positive Content: Despite tragedy, the two characters find a meaning and the will to continue their lives.
I wanted to like this film so bad.
I just didn’t get into this one. To be fair, during my session at the cinema, there was a fly that was crawling across the projector. They had to stop the film as they rummaged around to find some fly spray. It was certainly a unique experience! But even without the massive distraction of a giant shadow of a fly crawling across Adam Driver’s face during the entirety of the opening act, I don’t think there was much to emotionally engage with in the first place. The opening scene offers some overall exposition, the second scene quickly establishes the protagonist’s backstory, and that’s it—we’re off to the late cretaceous period!
65 is only a ninety-three-minute film, which is very short by today’s standards. Sometimes that works in a film’s favour, especially when the story is on the shallow side. But with 65 it’s as though there’s too much time dedicated to wandering across a dinosaur-filled landscape. The premise sounds exciting, but once the audience realizes this film lacks the courage to take any major risks, things become very boring very quickly. There are stakes at play, but they mean nothing if the script lacks the guts to place their characters in any real danger. If it took the time to add more depth to its two central characters, then the audience may have had the chance to share their fear and empathize with their struggles.
It’s easy to see what 65 was aiming towards, and it’s a shame that it released at the same time as The Last of Us. As much as that television show is incredibly overhyped, it does explore that father and surrogate daughter dynamic better. 65 feels generic in comparison. It tries to link Mills’ (Adam Driver) external and internal conflict together, much like any respectful film, but ultimately the story doesn’t have much to say.
65’s worst issues really started all the way back in the script stage. Was a man tasked with looking after a little girl really the strongest narrative choice? I realize that altering that factor would change the entire dynamic of the film, and any decision comes with its own pros and cons. Yet it’s widely known that child characters are risky. They can be annoying, a hindrance to progressing the plot, a burden to the protagonist, and the actor can be inexperienced. For the latter, Ariana Greenblatt as Koa does well in the role (although she is playing half her age). Yet her character essentially turns Mills’ journey into an escort mission—and if you’re a gamer, then you know that no one like an escort mission. She’s not that annoying, but Koa’s role within the story feels limited and purely symbolic of Mills’ internal issues.
It’s rare to say this, but there seems to be too many obstacles. There are limited resources. That’s fine, almost expected. There’s a time crunch. That’s standard—it helps to kick the plot along and add tension. They have to traverse a dangerous landscape. That’s what makes the film interesting. The protagonist has to ensure the safety of a child. Okay. That makes things more of a challenge, and you know that the naivety of the younger character is going to play a factor, but it can make the overall journey all the more rewarding. But the child speaks another language… Yeah, this now starts to kill the script. Why, oh why did they make this creative choice? Under these set of circumstances, dialogue is rendered useless. The characters can’t converse. There was already an age barrier in place. With a supporting character that can’t assist much in dangerous situations, and cannot even communicate with the main protagonist, they do little to serve the narrative. In some ways it may have been a stronger choice to simply leave Mills solo, which forces him to find his own motivation to live, and encourages the screenwriters to write more creative dinosaur encounters. I expected more from the writing duo that brought us A Quiet Place.
It’s a production that doesn’t really know its potential demographics. You’ve got dinosaur-obsessed kids, Adam Driver fans, dinosaur geeks, and casual horror and sci-fi viewers. It fails on all fronts. Granted, despite the insane amount of interest kindergartners have in dinosaurs, the trailers of 65 never gave audiences the impression this film was suitable for the youngest of audiences. But in case you were wondering—no, 65 is not suitable for kids. If they can’t handle Jurassic World, then they shouldn’t watch this. Stick with Netflix’s Camp Cretaceous instead (it’s actually better than this film anyway, although even then I’d only recommend it for the older kiddies).
For the Adam Driver fans, there’s nothing really special to see here, unless you find the mere presence of the actor special in itself. Some marketing pointed out that 65 was the first film to utilize Driver’s military training. Oddly enough, this isn’t justified as his character is a pilot, not a soldier. The action sequences don’t really progress much further than pointing a gun and shooting at things, so it’s not a grand display of Driver’s skills in this area. In terms of acting, he’s fine, but Mills as a character really doesn’t stretch him as a performer.
The dinosaur geeks are the ones that will be the most frustrated out of the bunch. The dinosaur designs are… interesting. Completely ignoring the research concerning feathers, these very reptilian-looking creatures are a little on the goofy side in terms of appearance, to the point that geeky viewers are having a hard time in pinning down exactly what species are being represented here. Complicating matters further, despite 65 being set in an extremely specific time period, the film has included suspected species that lived millions of years prior, or on a completely different continent. It doesn’t commit the cardinal sin of whacking a stegosaurus and T-Rex together in the same time period, but one would expect a film in 2023 would be more accurate and realistic in its presentation than 1993’s Jurassic Park.
Even casual dinosaur fans will feel lost here. Part of the fun is seeing dinosaur species you know and love on the big screen, duking it out with Adam Driver. Have you ever looked at the stats of a triceratops? They were ginormous! How terrifying would it be to need to walk through a herd of them? Yet when the majority of the species in 65 are barely recognisable, it takes away that novelty and excitement, as the dinosaurs begin to feel interchangeable with generic lizard monsters. One or two weirdo inclusions is fine, as it expands the audience’s knowledge (see Jurassic World Dominion’s break out star, the therizinosaurus), but to not have any herbivorous species, or to exclude incredibly famous ones like the triceratops (I’m pretty salty about that), isn’t forgivable.
Then there’s the horror and the sci-fi element. For the latter genre, it’s practically non-existent. 65 is very much aiming to be a survival horror. Or thriller. The tech is surprisingly innovative though. As for the scares, this movie would be perfect for young teens; viewers that haven’t watched enough movies in the genre yet to know the patterns and the obvious trajectory of the scenes. Additionally, 65 suffers the same problem as Jurassic World Dominion where it lacks an iconic set piece. There are no velociraptors in a kitchen, a T-Rex with a jeep, or a trailer falling off a cliff where its glass window is about to crack. There is one interesting sequence within a cave, but outside of that, a lot of the action begins and ends the same in 65, making the adventure feel rather bland. As cliché as the concept is now, 65 could have benefitted from having a larger cast filled with cannon fodder, where the characters get picked off one by one.
There are simply better movies out there. 65 really makes you appreciate the mastery of Jurassic Park. There are honestly more intense sequences to be found in the first season of Camp Cretaceous. If you want some giant monster fun, then there’s Kong: Skull Island and Rampage. Love and Monsters was also enjoyably quirky. If you want to see a famous actor take on something ridiculous, then watch Beast, because as irritating as some of the characters were in the movie, at least you get to see Idris Elba bring a knife to a lion fight. For an action horror sci-fi, Predators hits the spot, or even the original film, which is a must-see anyway. For something of a more serious nature, there’s The Edge, whereas The Grey takes a dark thematic deep dive into exploring the topics of depression and suicidality. 65 sadly falls short of all of these; not fun enough to provide a wild ride, or is thematically realized enough to be taken seriously. It’s most reminiscent of After Earth, and that’s a mental comparison no film wishes to achieve.
Where the film does receive points is in its technical execution. While the film lacks tension in some scenes, the cinematography is beautiful, and the production design reflects a thoughtful approach. The environment doesn’t look like it’s set in the late cretaceous, but that’s forgivable considering it’s anyone’s guess anyway. Unlike After Earth, the story is still coherent and competently tells a standard three act narrative. It just doesn’t have much flair, which is a shame given its giant, much-anticipated prehistoric cast.
+ Majority of the GCI is well done
+ Production design of the sci-fi elements
- Predictable to the point of lacking tension
- Communication barrier forces script to shut down
- Inaccuracies with the time period
- Some dinosaurs just look like random monsters
- Been done better in other films
The Bottom Line
65 is a bland survivalist thriller that fails to take up the mantle of being the next big thing when it comes to dinosaur-related content.
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