65 (2023), a new science fiction adventure starring Adam Driver as a space pilot who crash lands on Earth 65 million years ago smack in the middle of some menacing dinosaurs, has a fun premise, but then does nothing with it.
65 is the story of Mills (Adam Driver), a pilot who is about to leave on a two-year mission which will pay him well, money he needs to treat his ailing daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman). But enroute, the ship is struck by a meteor and crash lands on an unknown planet, which happens to be Earth in the age of the dinosaurs. There is only one other survivor besides Mills, a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), and so, thinking of his own daughter, Mills vows to get her back home. The specifics of that endeavor include climbing a mountain to reach the ship’s escape pod, which is on the mountaintop because Mills’ ship split in two and that’s where the half with the pod landed. In their way, a jungle filled with hungry dinosaurs.
And oh, by the way. This is also the day when the catastrophic meteor strike which wiped out the dinosaurs is about to occur. So, if Mills and Koa don’t get off the planet, they will be pulverized by the doomsday meteor blast.
There are a lot of thought-provoking roads this movie could have taken. Sadly, however, there just isn’t much that is thought-provoking about this film.
Let’s start with the characters. Mills and his people come from a planet different than Earth, and yet they all look human, and they speak English. But they are about to crash land on Earth during a time before humans existed, and so, I thought, might there be some PROMETHEUS (2012) ideas floating around, that perhaps these folks would somehow become the parents of the human race? But that’s not what this movie is about. And I know, in the STAR WARS universe, they look human too, but STAR WARS is also more fantasy/adventure than science fiction. So, why is it worse here in 65 than in the STAR WARS movies? It’s not. It’s just that in a standalone film about aliens who crash land on Earth who look and act exactly like humans, well that stands out a little more here, and not in a good way.
The screenplay by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, both of whom also directed the movie, struggles from the outset with this exciting premise. The plot here seems like a no brainer for suspense and excitement, yet the film labors to generate any, especially at the beginning. The ship crashes, and Mills is alone for a while trying to figure out what happened, and all I could think about is, we the audience know what happened: they crashed on Earth in a place full of dinosaurs! Had this ship contained a group of people who were alive, we could see them all dealing with these dinosaurs immediately! Instead, the script makes the dubious decision to kill everyone on board in the crash, except for Mills (and then later Koa when he discovers her alive), and so when Mills looks about the jungle, you know he’s not going to be killed because the movie would then be over after about ten minutes, and so there’s no suspense and no excitement.
The screenplay also struggles with time. At the beginning of the movie, it’s stated that Mills will be gone for two years. Yet, on the trip, everyone is in stasis, which seems odd for a mission that will have them back home in two years. It’s not like they’re traveling for decades. But I can buy that perhaps they were saving on food and other things, so it would make sense for them to be asleep for the voyage. However, after the crash Mills learns news about his daughter, and while it’s not specifically stated, it just seems like more than two years have passed since he left.
The movie also employs some of what I like to call LOST IN SPACE logic. Now, I love the original 1960s science fiction TV show LOST IN SPACE (1965-68) and I’m a big fan, but the logic on that show was always silly, and science was never at the forefront of their scripts, unlike STAR TREK. Here, you have Mills sending out distress calls to his home planet, and he seems to believe they will send help immediately. One, he’s on an uncharted planet, so they don’t even know where it is, and two, he must be far from home. What kind of ships do they have? Can they navigate worm holes? Does he really expect them to just show up and rescue them? Apparently, he does. Which makes little sense.
Then, he believes that the escape pod/ship will save them. Yes, it will get them off the planet, but then what? What about fuel? Food? And where are they going to go once they’re flying in space? No one here is asking these questions. It’s all very lazy writing.
The movie isn’t interested in any of these things, but it is interested in dinosaurs. So, how are the dinosaurs in this movie? Not bad. There are some decent sequences here, my favorite involving a T-Rex towards the end of the movie. But a lot of the scenes are derivative of stuff we’ve already seen in the JURASSIC PARK movies. In short, the dinosaurs here are decent, but they don’t make or break this movie.
Screenwriters Beck and Woods also worked on the screenplays for THE QUIET PLACE movies, which told much better stories than the one told here in 65. THE QUIET PLACE movies took an interesting premise and ran with it. 65 takes a neat premise and drops the ball.
The acting, however, is fine. Adam Driver is really good as Mills, and he turns in an athletic, driven performance as he will stop at nothing to get Koa home. Driver’s performance, as expected, is one of the better parts of the movie.
Ariana Greenblatt is also excellent as Koa, but the sad truth is there’s not a whole lot for either of these two actors to do other than react to scary dinosaurs.
My favorite part of 65 is that they used the same sound effects from the Martian machines in the classic 1953 WAR OF THE WORLDS for Mills’ ship’s warning system. It was fun to hear it on the big screen, even if only for a few seconds.
65 is pure fluff, but not very thought-provoking or exciting fluff. Its tale of dinosaurs attacking people who have crash-landed on Earth 65 million years ago could have been intense and exciting, but it’s not. It’s superficial and sadly mediocre.
But because I like dinosaurs… and who doesn’t?… I give it two stars.
Four stars – Perfect, Top of the line
Three and a half stars- Excellent
Three stars – Very Good
Two and a half stars – Good
Two Stars – Fair
One and a half stars – Pretty Weak
One star- Poor
Zero stars – Awful