65 ’s sloppily built sequences and shoddy character work may have flown 65 million years ago, but nowadays, it’s bound to go extinct.
My juvenile mind cannot stop wishing the title was 69. I need help.
65, aka the bastard child of Star Wars and Jurassic Park, is set 65 million years ago and stars Adam Driver as… hang on, I forgot, let me look it up… Mills, a pilot from an alien planet. When he crash lands on prehistoric Earth, he needs to find a way back home while surviving from dinosaurs. He also needs to protect another survivor named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). I don’t need to look up her name because it makes up nearly half of Adam Driver’s dialogue.
Believe it or not, I was actually rooting for 65 to succeed. There actually haven’t been many action films about dinosaurs, the main reason being, of course, the Jurassic Park movies. Similarly to how space opera movies remind you of Star Wars, the franchise just set that big of an impact on the film industry, to the point where any new attempt at dinosaurs just come off fresh as fossils. It would have been nice to see a new movie successfully make their own take on dinosaur action.
65 actually had one major advantage over other dinosaur movie attempts: it features scientifically advanced characters and weapons. The idea of future weapons vs T-rex is a debate over which countless nerds at heart will pledge their figurine collection, so the seeds were there for a product that could be, if not unique, at least memorably entertaining. So how did it turn out?
Let me put it this way. Before the movie started, it played an R-rated coming of age sex comedy film trailer starring Jennifer Lawrence. That’s what I remember most from this entire theater experience.
From the start, I could hear 65 practically screaming at me to lower my expectations, because it immediately has Mills spend time with his wife and daughter, and then keep a picture of her when on his expedition. That’s right, this is yet another dad movie, where the protagonist’s entire character can be summed up as “I have a family” and is the sole emotional attachment for heaps of action. (Side note, why always dads? Why can’t we have a badass mom in an action movie for once?)
But alright, if this movie would rather focus solely on future rifles vs dinosaurs, I can work with that. And to be fair, this is a survival movie, where the story is often driven by the situation than the character. All the movie needs to do, then, is provide creative setpieces, clear action, and a good sense of escalation. However, 65 somehow flatlines in that department as well.
It’s especially disappointing considering the film was directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who showed they could do well-built suspense in A Quiet Place. Yet here, nearly all of the scenes don’t feel as tense, mainly due to a lack of proper pacing. Initially, it seems we are onto something. We hear distant roars in a dark and rainy forest, and see a gigantic footprint on the ground. Yet the actual first dinosaur encounter is in broad daylight, where a dog-sized one jumpscares Mills with barely any buildup. Nearly all action scenes simply start without a proper lead-in, leaving no room for actual suspense to form.
Even the whole future weapons vs dinosaurs premise feels barely fleshed out. Throughout the movie, all we get is a scanner, one rifle, and a few bombs. Now, I wasn’t expecting something as far as Adam Driver having a lightsaber duel with a velociraptor, but this lack of variety limits a lot of the action scenes. There are some exceptions like a scene underground involving a scanner that is actually kind of creative and tense, but then we go straight back to Call of Duty: Prehistoric Warfare.
The aforementioned clunky pacing extends to the story in general. It feels like you’re watching one of those story recap videos on YouTube, even though this is supposed to be a full-length movie. Scenes don’t flow properly from one to the other and simply rush along, to the point where I cannot pin down the proper geography of characters nor whatever tone the film is trying to establish.
For instance, there is a scene where Mills is on a tree, then gets spooked by a vinegaroon on his hand and accidentally falls. While I don’t blame him for that reaction – my voice would have gone two octaves higher if that happened to me – it has more lighthearted connotation in that a toughened grown man makes a dumb mistake because of a bug. But then immediately after, dinosaurs appear and we get a desperate sequence of him trying to get his bearings before he dies. That sort of discrepancy piles up over the course of the movie.
The story’s weird pacing also hurts the protagonists. Not only does the actual arc they go through feels rudimentary at best, where it feels the writers just copied down the “Badass and Child Duo” tvtropes page and called it a day, but because we get the bullet points version of said tropes, it feels even more artificial. Some habit that the main character does comes back in an emotional moment, some lie at the beginning of the film leads to an argument in the climax, all that is there with zero filter.
There is one genuinely interesting idea in that the two protagonists don’t speak the same language, forcing them to communicate solely through general feel and a few common words throughout the entire movie. It is here where both actors shine the brightest, and I was especially impressed by Greenblatt considering she is a child actor. But even that is squandered by the film, once again, never pacing their relationship out properly.
In fact, nearly all the issues with 65 come down to the pacing, other than the CGI dinosaurs looking more like inflatable toys. Perhaps that isn’t surprising, considering it was directed by former screenwriters. It shows that while they know how to craft a good scenario, they still have ways to go in directing and translating that story fully onto the screen.
I can enjoy dad movies. It’s why I keep falling for Liam Neeson or Gerard Butler movies even though I really should have learned my lesson the last 65 times. But even a dad movie – scratch that, any movie – has to have a cohesive flow. 65’s failure in that department means it’s not even that entertaining as a dumb action thriller. To get the maximum enjoyment from this, don’t pay 14 dollars like I did. Instead, wait a few weeks for movie clips to come on YouTube and watch those. Because that is the extent of this film’s actual substance.
Scott Beck and Bryan Woods’ film 65 is out now globally in theaters.