65 Review: Another disappointing dino flick
Directing and writing duo Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, co-writers of A Quiet Place, team up with Adam Driver for an original sci-fi action thriller that has a lot of potential it rarely lives up to.
The film sees Driver as Mills, a futuristic pilot whose latest transport job is obstructed by a collision with an asteroid belt that causes his ship to crash-land on a nearby planet. While Mills has no idea where he is, the film tells us that he’s actually on Earth…65 Million Years Ago. So rather than see any form of human life, Mills sees gigantic dinosaurs and unpredictable environments that present death around every corner. With the looming threat of a cataclysmic meteor heading towards Earth as well, Mills and another young survivor Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) are forced to find an escape pod to get off the planet before it’s too late.
With how the Jurassic Park franchise has slowly drifted away from its horror roots as time has gone on, there is something exciting about 65 trying to make dinosaurs scary again. There are some good thrills that let the vicious nature of the creatures that Mills and Koa come across flourish and really scare audiences through some heart-pounding suspense. However, the film’s prehistoric horror thrills are way too minimal to the point where you question if the film really needed dinosaurs at all. Frankly, it feels like Mills and Koa are fighting off bugs and dealing with environmental hazards more than dinosaurs and it’s incredibly disappointing.
There are a couple good moments, like Mills fighting off a dinosaur in the dark and dealing with a whole pack of dinos looking to rip his head off. But they mostly feel secondary in terms of being a threat or even just a genuine focus of the film. The film presenting a future fights the past scenario with dinosaurs involved was a huge selling point prior to its release. It was unique and had a lot awesome potential for action and world-building. But sadly, there’s just no no real interest in utilizing dinosaurs in a meaningful way or really exploring this world.
The characters aren’t intrigued by pretty much anything they come across on this planet and only have survival on their minds. While that’s understandable given the situation they’re in, it unfortunately makes for a boring viewing experience when they’re just walking around. There’s nothing to make viewers more immersed or invested in 65’s prehistoric world and it’s a big reason why the dinosaurs feel so pointless. They could’ve honestly been replaced with wolves or some random alien creatures and they would have the same effect – or lack thereof because of how unambitious Beck and Woods’ direction is.
Beck and Woods really don’t take full advantage of this incredible premise and really just craft a boring sci-fi action experience. The whole idea of Mills utilizing futuristic tech isn’t used in fun ways whatsoever. The action, for the most part, feels stiff and never does enough to surprise or wow audiences. The effects and creature designs are pretty standard and it never feels like the characters are challenged in a way that makes them have to alter their tactics. Aside from using environmental hazards once in a while, Mills simply uses his unremarkable rifle to kill enemies and it packs little punch. 65’s action heavily lacks innovation and when the film isn’t trying to be action-packed or suspenseful, it falters even more.
The direction for the moments of Mills and Koa “bonding” are painfully awkward, and the performances just don’t feel right. Driver and Greenblatt just don’t have the right chemistry for the growing father/daughter bond between their characters. When Driver tries to be more personable as Mills, it feels terribly forced and creates awkward interactions between him and Koa. Koa, in general, is also a bit lackluster as her more humorous moments come off generic and her story is incredibly thin. Even worse is that the score from Chris Bacon can be more of nuisance than an aid to scenes. The music often tries too hard to add scenes and ends up creating an awkward feel, especially in moments where Mills and Koa are developing a strong dynamic. It honestly feels like it’s trying to mimic a John Williams type score for a Spielberg movie but lacks the subtlety or flow making it stick out horribly.
65’s story also doesn’t have enough depth or meat on its bones to keep it engaging. There are some good story beats surrounding Mills’ growing frustration with how hopeless their situation becomes and connections to his backstory that create a good emotional tether to him. Honestly, when the film focuses on Mills’ perspective as a survivor in a tragic situation and the subtle pain he feels from a loss, 65 can be a compelling watch. The dramatic elements of the film’s main story and Mills’ personal arc are where Driver shines the most and Greenblatt can have some good moments too. Sadly though, the story just feels like a thinly crafted excuse for things to happen between the action and it’s a big reason that 65 will likely become forgettable for most.
Although there are some strengths to 65 worth mentioning, it’s not a film that does much right and often squanders its potential more than lives up to it. None of the genres it touches upon really shine in a remarkable way and it really doesn’t warrant a reason to trek to the theaters to see it.
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