Based solely on the trailers, I went into 65 thinking it was going to be a time travel epic with dinosaurs as the main antagonists. What I ended up getting was a pretty traditional, if not hollow, adventure with a focus more on family than giant space lizards, which is unfortunate.
The film begins 65 million years ago on Solaris, a planet similar to Earth. Although we see nothing but the beach, the people seem human. Mills (Adam Driver) is a father who leaves his wife and daughter for two years to undertake a special project that will bring him extra pay: money to go towards hospital bills for his sick daughter. We don’t know what that special project is, but it involves Mills flying a spaceship filled with cryopods to another planet. During the flight, his spaceship is hit by an asteroid and crashes on an unknown planet (Earth). Mills is the only survivor until he discovers Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a nine-year-old girl who survived in the cryogenic pod. She doesn’t speak English, her parents are dead and they have to find the other half of her spaceship, which has the escape module. So there’s your story.
A rather routine adventure film follows, with Mills and Koa trying to escape Earth before the dinosaur-eradicating asteroid 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 ultimately little more than a tagline. There’s no surprise plot device midway, nor is there an unexpected ending. He tells you what it is up front, and delivers exactly that.
This movie had too much family drama to hold my interest. I was expecting some hardcore sci-fi action; I have very little of it. 65 is definitely meant to appeal to a broader audience: people who want cute children’s 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’s even a story for people looking for something with an adorable animal (when Koa decides to risk everything 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 by the studio to get something for everyone into the precise 90-minute running time. This was the pair’s first major studio directing job, with previous directorial outings including low-budget horror flicks like Haunt and Nightlight, and with the exception of a few overly dark scenes, 65 was competently shot.
Driver and Greenblatt were fine in their respective roles. The only other humans in the film were Mills’ daughter and wife. The daughter is seen via video holograms, while the wife is not even named in the film. It was interesting to see so few actors in one film, as it really gave Driver the responsibility of carrying the film. However, frankly, I don’t know if he has the charisma to handle that load. There was nothing special about his performance. No impromptu jokes; there is no special chemistry with Greenblatt. On the other hand, the character of Mills was not well developed either. I never really cared about him, his family, or his struggle to come home. We spent less than two minutes with him and his family before he was sent on his mission; suddenly, he was trying to rebuild 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 hang on to. Fortunately, Greenblatt was charming enough to carry a good part of the film, despite the fact that her character for the most part spoke nonsense language.
The dinosaurs in the movie are a little better, but something about them still seems off. Anyone who has grown up on a steady diet of Jurassic Park movies has a very specific idea of how dinosaurs move and act in the movies. Strangely, the dinosaurs in this movie had a loose, almost slippery way of moving, making them feel strange. It’s an odd choice, given that these are supposed to be dinosaurs on Earth. Despite that, the CGI was clean and looked good. And thankfully, realistic looking CGI is all you need to be entertained at times. Not that it can make up for a central performance from its star that doesn’t resonate as it should.
I think maybe I had my hopes too high for 65. I was expecting something much bigger than it ended up being. Logically, to compete with Scream VI at the box office, you’d assume it’s a big, sprawling movie. Instead, you get something that would have been fine if you had watched it at home on a streaming service.