Based solely on the trailers, I went into 65 thinking it was going to be an epic time travel tale with dinosaurs as the main antagonists. What I ended up getting was a fairly traditional, if not hollow, adventure with a focus more on family than on giant space lizards, which is unfortunate.
The movie starts 65 million years ago on Solaris, a planet similar to Earth. Though we see nothing more than the beach, the people look like humans. Mills (Adam Driver) is a father who leaves his wife and daughter for two years to take on a special project that will pay him extra–money that will go to his ailing daughter’s hospital bills. We are not privy to what that special project is, but it involves Mills flying a spaceship full of cryopods to another planet. During the flight, his spaceship is hit by an asteroid and crashes on an uncharted planet (Earth). Mills is the only survivor until he discovers Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a nine-year-old girl who survived in the cryopod. She doesn’t speak English, her parents are dead, and they have to find the other half of their spaceship, which has the escape module. So there’s your story.
A fairly rote adventure flick follows, with Mills and Koa trying to escape Earth before the asteroid that eradicates the dinosaurs hits the planet. Along the way, Koa has to learn to trust Mills; Mills has to learn to open his heart to Koa; and the pair must dodge dinosaurs and treacherous terrain. The plot is thin and is ultimately little more than a logline. There is no surprise plot device halfway through, nor is there a twist ending. It tells you what it is up front, and delivers exactly that.
This film had far too much family drama to keep my interest. I was hoping for hard sci-fi action; I got very little of that. 65 is definitely meant to appeal to a broader audience: people who want cute kid stories (like watching Mills try to explain things to Koa, who struggles to understand); people who want heartbreaking family stories (like when Mills finally accepts Koa and gives her a big hug); there is even a story for people looking for something with an adorable animal (when Koa decides to risk it all to save a baby dinosaur from a tar pit). It’s enough to make you wonder if writer/director partners Scott Beck and Bryan Woods’ script was meddled with by the studio to get a little bit of something for everyone into the precise 90-minute runtime. This was the pair’s first big-studio directing gig, with previous directorial outings including low-budget horror like Haunt and Nightlight, and with the exception of a few overly dark scenes, 65 was competently shot.
Driver and Greenblatt were both fine in their respective roles. The only other humans in the film were Mills’ daughter and wife. The daughter is seen through video holograms, while the wife isn’t even named in the movie. It was interesting to see so few actors in a film, as it really put the onus on Driver to carry the film. Frankly, though, I don’t know that he has the charisma to handle that burden. There was nothing special about his performance. No off-hand jokes; no special chemistry with Greenblatt. Then again, the character of Mills wasn’t well developed, either. I never really grew to care about him, his family, or his struggle to get home. We spent less than two minutes with him and his family before he was sent off on his mission; suddenly, he was trying to piece together a crashed spaceship. It’s as if any interesting character development was cut out, leaving us with little more than a shell of a character without much to latch onto. Luckily, Greenblatt was charming enough to carry a good portion of the film, even though her character mostly spoke a nonsense language.
The dinos in the movie are a bit better, but something about them still seems off. Anyone raised on a steady diet of Jurassic Park films has a very specific idea of how dinosaurs move and act in movies. Oddly, the dinosaurs in this film had a loose, almost slithery way of moving, making them feel alien. It’s an odd choice to make, given that these are supposed to be dinosaurs on Earth. Despite that, the CGI was clean and looked good. And thankfully, CGI, which looks realistic, is all you need to be entertained sometimes. Not that it can make up for a core performance from your star that doesn’t resonate as it should.
I think perhaps I had my hopes set too high for 65. I was expecting something much bigger than what it ended up being. Logically, for it to go up against Scream VI at the box office, you would assume it to be a big, sprawling film. Instead, you’re treated to something that would have been just fine if you watched it at home on a streaming service.