65 (2023)

MARCH 20, 2023


I find most conspiracy theories (and the people who make them) to be total nonsense at best, but I will entertain the notion that IP obsessed studios like Sony purposely make a movie as forgettable as 65 every now and then. Because they spend a lot of money on such things, and there's zero chance it'll be a hit, but when they announce yet another nostalgia chasing sequel (indeed, another Ghostbusters started shooting this week) and people complain that they never make anything original, they can point at something like this and say "Yes we do, and you don't show up, so why should be bother?" $100m to justify and defend the billions they spend on sequels and reboots seems a small price to pay, no?

Because the thing is, the movie isn't terrible or anything - it's just... THERE. The concept sounds fun on paper: a passenger vessel crashlands on an unknown planet, where dinosaurs are the only lifeform and an asteroid is inching ever closer to the atmosphere. "Like the one that killed all the dinosaurs?" you ask, and yes - in fact it's exactly that one, and that's why the movie is called 65 (as in million years ago - and don't worry if you didn't piece that together yourself, as the title screen literally spells it out for us). But it's not a time travel thing; we're just told that in the vast infinity of space there are other systems with people who, you know, speak English and play with Legos. It's almost like they started with the idea to make the fact that this was Earth into a 2nd act reveal/twist, but then opted to just tell us right at the beginning without realizing that the movie no longer had any compelling reason to exist.

However, therein lies one of the issues with the movie: Adam Driver's pilot and the little girl he has to protect - the only two survivors of the crash - don't KNOW that this is "Earth, 65 million years ago", so there's no real in-movie hook to their predicament. A time traveler who happens to land 24 hrs before the asteroid wiped out all the dinos would probably figure that out and understand the gravity of the situation, but neither of our characters do for the majority of the runtime. And since they are the only two people in the entire movie (except for Driver's wife and daughter, who are seen briefly via flashback and are not on the planet), there isn't much suspense to the proceedings, either. Will this PG-13 movie from a major studio kill its main star any earlier than the final scene, if that? Or the 9 year old girl who just lost her parents? If you believe either of these answers could be "yes", then you might love 65!

(And yes, I know that this comes from Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who came up with the - ahem - "original" script for A Quiet Place, which did indeed kill a child, but the key difference is that the kid died in the first scene to sell us on the concept, and left us with three others to worry about including the baby. That's not the same thing as "Adam Driver has to protect the only other person in the movie.")

For the rest of us who know better, even at 90 minutes it starts to get a bit tiresome, because there's simply no danger involved in any of it. It's like riding one of those immersive screen rides where the IMAX size movie screen makes you think you're on an out of control roller coaster or being flung around the city by the Green Goblin or whatever, but in reality you know you're just sitting in a seat that tilts back and forth. You get the illusion of a thrill, like when a dino snatches the girl by her coat and starts to drag her off, or when the two of them are separated by a tunnel caving in, but there's simply no chance at all that one of them will rescue the other within minutes, and then we will watch them walk around for another ten minutes until the next action scene is rendered. It's all just, you know, fine.

Since there wasn't much to genuinely engage me during the movie, I kept thinking of two ways that it easily could have been improved. One just required a different perspective: tell the story through the eyes of the little girl, with Driver as someone she (and in turn we) wasn't sure she could trust. Not only could this provide a possible secondary threat to our hero, but also - once we know he wasn't really a bad person - generate more suspense during the action scenes, because he could die at any moment if she was our audience surrogate. They don't even speak the same language, so that could have been used for more tension through her eyes (well, ears), because he could be saying "I want to help" but she'd have no idea. The other thing that might have helped would be if it was set up as a more Enemy Mine kind of scenario, with someone that's Driver's equal in terms of audience trust/recognition (Oscar Isaac?) and the two of them have to learn to trust each other if they're going to survive the dinosaurs and get off the planet before the asteroid hits. Either way, there'd be some narrative intrigue that the movie sorely lacks.

All that said, it's at least a reasonably OK timekiller. Since the Jurassic Park movies are usually our only source of big screen dino action, it's nice to have one where they are the primary threat, as those films (particularly the most recent one) seem hellbent on human villains taking up the majority of the screentime. The designs look a little weird as a result, because my mental image now and probably forever of say, a raptor is going to be how they look in Spielberg's universe, but they're at least well done in terms of feeling like flesh and blood presences for the most part. And there's a pretty great jump scare early on that is perfectly executed, with directors Beck and Woods drawing your attention to one side of the image before springing a dino on the other. The marketing was sure to remind us a lot that this came from the creators of Quiet Place, which did the movie no favors since that movie got more suspense out of a nail on a stair than this one managed with dinosaurs and asteroids, but at least they could pull off a few decent monster movie thrills.

Basically, it's the sort of movie TNT or SYFY will run at 2 am and/or 4pm for the rest of our lives, and you'll half-watch it while doing the Wordle or whatever, and later in life you might be able to surprise someone with the reveal that it played in theaters. There's nothing really wrong with that - it's OK for movies to be OK! - but it just makes me sad that they couldn't put more effort into it and make it something worth championing. I'd love to tell you to go check out this original genre film over all the sequels playing alongside it (seriously - the other movies in the theater were all franchises: Scream 6, Avatar 2, Creed 3, Ant-Man 3, and Shazam 2), but the sad fact remains that it peaks early with the ludicrous title reveal and never generated a moment of genuine tension until its final scene. Even at 90 minutes (and bless em for it!), there are simply better things to do with your time and money (and health - happy 3 years of Covid, everyone!).

What say you?


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