THE STORY – After a catastrophic crash on an unknown planet, pilot Mills quickly discovers he’s actually stranded on Earth — 65 million years ago. Now, with only one chance at a rescue, Mills and the only other survivor, Koa, must make their way across an unknown terrain riddled with dangerous prehistoric creatures.
THE CAST – Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman & Nika King
THE TEAM – Scott Beck & Bryan Woods (Directors/Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 93 Minutes
In a Hollywood movie market inundated with blockbuster franchises, it can feel like an impossible task to create in tune with these juggernauts while trying to create something new to stand alongside them. It’s not an easy feat to make a film about prehistoric creatures audiences have been fascinated with since “Jurassic Park.” Yet one such film rises to the challenge.
From the creative minds of “A Quiet Place” comes “65,” an original sci-fi story about a pilot and his lone surviving passenger working together to find their way home and off a strange planet– ours. Adam Driver stars as Mills, the surviving pilot who does what it takes to get his passenger, Koa, back to her homeworld while facing alien creatures, which are, in fact, dinosaurs on the precipice of extinction.
Though the concept is a different take on the genre and is free from IP, the execution of it leaves much to be desired. Despite the synopsis’ claims, there is no evidence to suggest that Mills discovers that he’s stranded on Earth. “Planet of the Apes” hits a deeper level for Charlton Heston’s George at the end of the film because he learns that he’s been on Earth the whole time. In “65,” on the other hand, the fact that Mills and Koa are on Earth during the Cretaceous period only impacts the audience. There could’ve been a great opportunity for dramatic irony, but Mills and Koa have no connection to Earth whatsoever. For their time spent on the planet, they are entirely unaware of where they are. In all truth, it’s unclear whether the planets that the main characters come from exist simultaneously as Earth was 65 million years ago. Details like this are left unanswered, giving the audience less to hold on to.
Because Mills and Koa don’t know that this is Earth and, therefore, view it as an alien planet. The visual effects team behind “65” take creative liberties with the dinosaur design in this sci-fi action thriller. As an audience, we’ve gotten used to what we expect from our cinematic dinosaurs. These aren’t genetically altered, like the ones you find in the “Jurassic World” trilogy. The dinosaurs featured range from subtle changes in the raptors and pterodactyls to drastic biological features in some formidable predators in the final act. The dinosaur hybrids are more extra-terrestrial and eye-catching to see.
Mills and Koa have to overcome physical and communication obstacles in order to survive. We often reward films that manage to show and not tell characterization, finding the subtext in the silence, which is something the “A Quiet Place” writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods have experience with. However, in the case of “65,” Beck and Woods are less successful in connecting audiences with the duo. A big reason why the same type of investment isn’t there is the lack of background information on Koa. We only learn very little about her and her family, whereas we get that much more backstory on Mills and his family, especially his relationship with his daughter, Nevine. As a matter of fact, Chloe Coleman’s Nevine does more of the emotional heavy lifting without physically being on Earth.
It’s unfortunate to make this comparison, but given its release date, it can’t be ignored– the pairing of the grumpy older man with the teenage girl that “65” is trying to do is currently being perfected on HBO’s “The Last of Us” starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. Though the story beats are very similar, for example, Mills trying to save the life of a girl who reminds him of his daughter, the emotional connection isn’t there in its 93-minute runtime as opposed to the nine-episode season. Compared to movies that use this pairing, like “Logan,” which also features a language barrier, the investment between Mills and Koa isn’t as effective as it could’ve been. It’s not for lack of effort– Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt do their best with what they’re given. It just falls short of what it could’ve been.
There’s an appetite to discover the next great dinosaur movie that doesn’t have to do with “Jurassic Park,” Unfortunately, “65” doesn’t quite fill that desire. If you are coming into “65” for a simple, sci-fi survival adventure featuring dinosaurs, what you see is what you get. If you are looking for more beyond that, a story with more depth has been extinct next to the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.