Movie Curiosities: 65
It seems like only yesterday when I was talking about premises that sound superficially awesome in theory, but incapable of sustaining a feature-length movie in practice. At the time, I was referring to Cocaine Bear, which was roughly fifteen minutes of actual “coked-up bear” action and roughly ninety minutes of worthless and unfunny subplots nobody gives a shit about.
And here we are with 65, in which Adam Driver plays a futuristic sci-fi spaceman who somehow crashes onto prehistoric Earth, tasked with fighting dinosaurs and getting off the planet before the asteroid hits. That’s it. That’s the movie. It’s Kylo Ren versus Jurassic Park, which sounds like it should be awesome, but turns out to be impossibly stupid and dull. It’s like somebody took a script from The Asylum and gave it a $45 million budget, that’s the level of bullshit we’re dealing with here.
Let’s take it from the top, shall we?
The plot begins 65 million years ago with some vague confederation of humanoid alien species on faraway planets… it’s frustratingly vague. The point is, this isn’t some time-travel premise concerning future soldiers stranded in the past, we’re dealing with characters who look human but aren’t. And no, this isn’t some scenario in which modern humans turn out to be descendants of extraterrestrial visitors, for which I’m personally grateful.
Adam Driver plays Mills, a pilot tasked with transporting a ship full of passengers in cryo-sleep. Trouble is, the ship ran directly into an uncharted asteroid belt and got literally torn in half upon re-entry to Earth. The only surviving passenger is Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a young girl who speaks wildly inconsistent broken English because the onboard translator got busted. The other major character is Mills’ daughter (Nevine, played by Chloe Coleman) who was of course left waiting for Mills to come back home.
The good news is, there’s an intact escape pod where the other half of the ship landed. The bad news is, Mills and Koa — who don’t speak the same language, remember — have to cross 15 km of hostile territory before the asteroid falls and kills everything. While dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes try to hunt them. Hilarity ensues.
To be clear, the problem here is not necessarily with Adam Driver. He’s a capable dramatic actor with proven action chops, and a starring role in a survival film sounds right in his wheelhouse. The problem is that while Driver is certainly a good actor, he’s not good enough to make scraps into a meal. Driver needs something to work with, and this script is giving him nothing.
Mills is a two-dimensional character at best. He’s a pile of threadbare cliches wrapped into a hollow mindless shell. To be clear, I get that it’s a survival film and thus reducing a human character to his most primal needs is the order of the day. Such minimalist character development would therefore make sense… if this really was about the flimsy and arbitrary line between man and nature like most good survival films. But no, this movie was built from the ground up around the premise of futuristic sci-fi tech against dinosaurs, so that whole theme is DOA.
The flat fact of the matter is that Mills and Koa are flimsy and insipid to the point of unsympathetic. The arbitrary and totally unnecessary language barrier certainly doesn’t help, as the lack of communication only impedes their teamwork in surviving, kneecaps any effort at character development, and neutralizes the chemistry between our two leads.
But even if the language barrier wasn’t an issue (and I should repeat that it very much fucking is), their intelligence would still wildly fluctuate according to the needs of the plot. And nine times out of ten, that means making the worst possible decision in the moment, panicking when they should be calm, and disregarding their own self-preservation and supplies as necessary. I’m sorry to say that these characters are only as competent as their sci-fi gadgetry, which regrettably means that the plot moves forward almost entirely on hand-waving bullshit. No joke, the characters are so hopelessly dependent on their all-purpose gear that when they come across a situation that they don’t have a tool for, it breaks suspension of disbelief.
Is the action good, at least? Not really. Pretty much all of the “action” in this movie is comprised of cheap and lazy jump scares ruined by an overblown score and uninspired camerawork. I’ll grant that some of the creature designs are suitably creepy, and the forest backdrop (shot between various locations in Louisiana and sweet home Oregon) is nicely pretty. But it speaks volumes that the movie’s creepiest scares come from the insects, not the reptiles. It’s a massive problem that so few of the CGI dinos are animated with any flair or personality. They didn’t feel like sentient animals or terrifying apex predators, just expendable and interchangeable NPCs. The original Jurassic Park — which was 30 freaking years ago, remember — had better effects, more expressive dinos, and a far more palpable sense of dread from the human leads (who were better defined and more sympathetic than Mills and Koa, to be fair).
Oh, and if any of these creature designs are the least bit scientifically accurate, I’ll eat my wallet.
The film came to us from the writing/directing team of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, with producing help from Sam Raimi, of all people. Beck and Woods are primarily known for writing A Quiet Place, which succeeded by virtue of a killer sci-fi premise and revolutionary sound design, with uncanny skill for building a world and developing complex sympathetic characters by way of very little dialogue. And of course Sam Raimi is the guy who crafts gut-churning mindfuck horror by torturing his main characters in such a way that we the audience are party to their suffering. And absolutely none of those skills and talents are on display here. Such a shame.
On the plus side, at least the film is kept to a brief 95 minutes. The film was built for speed and it followed the traditional three-act structure like clockwork. Trouble is, we’re still left with boring characters following a cliched plot that unfolds predictably, which leads to the impression of only going nowhere fast.
65 is a dud. The film’s numerous flaws might have been forgivable if it was only a short film, but it’s too tedious to endure at even 90 minutes long. Not that I was expecting a film with the premise of “spaceman versus dinosaurs” to be anything overly intelligent, but it’s not even stupid in a fun way (as Cocaine Bear attempted and Snakes on a Plane accomplished). This is just stupid in a flat, predictable, unsympathetic, boring way.
The film is getting crushed at the box office between Scream VI and Creed III. Deservedly so. This premise deserved better, and so do we.
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