65 (2023) Review

Synopsis: Mills (Adam Driver) crashes on earth 65 million years ago and fights dinosaurs.

Oh this is annoying. A title like that, and a film like this, you can almost sense that a review would say “65; a film as dull and unoriginal as the title suggests”, that comment itself would be (ironically) really lazy and predictable. But I can’t think how else to put it. Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs should not be as dull as this. Everything is just incredibly bland and dour. I think the problem is that the premise and the length (93 minutes) would lead you to believe that 65 will be an action-packed thrill-ride, albeit one that is a bit tongue-in-cheek and silly. Instead, the whole thing is far too serious, which feels like a missed opportunity.

That’s actually a good summary: a film of missed opportunities. Throughout, the script makes the wrong choices, goes down the wrong path, eats the wrong berries (I forgot the point I was making). Usually a script is lucky enough that these choices would be placed far apart in a script so that it isn’t too egregious but here it’s unlucky enough that it makes two narrative missteps in the opening.

One: Starting with Mills leaving his family behind so he can take part in a two year expedition. His daughter (Nevine) is sick so he needs to be able to afford healthcare etc. We find out relatively early on that Nevine died midway through Mills’ expedition. That should have been spread out. If we start not knowing this daughter is sick then it can unveil that to the audience through the film, and allow us to mentally go back and use the new knowledge to recontextualise earlier scenes. This doesn’t do that, because it gives us so much, so early on, it kind of feels like there’s no character exploration because we’re told too much early on. It’s the narrative equivalent of not bothering to wrap up Christmas presents. It also means that the film starst off calm and serene, which is the opposite of what you want. If it opened up with the spacecraft crashing then the audience would automatically be on the edge of their seat.

Two: We don’t see anybody else on the ship before it crashes. We aren’t introduced to them, the first time we see them, they’re all dead. This feels like a mistake because it means the audience doesn’t feel anything when they die. If we replaced the opening with a small scene of crew members joking around with each other it would flesh them out, so when everybody dies, the audience would actually feel something. The only other character we see is Koa, and with the exception of her desire to be reunited her parents, the deaths of the crew don’t effect the plot at all. There are no moments where Mills feels particularly haunted by all his colleagues being dead (or walking through their blood, in one of the few effective scenes). So what was the point of it? Why kill off that many people if you’re not going to have it have any baring on the plot?

That’s the other thought 65 provoked in me: Why? There are so many times where I don’t know why the writers made the choices they do. The core one: why is it set 65 million years in the past? Why not just have them as humans in the present day on a distant planet? The fact it’s earth, and in the past, adds NOTHING to the story. The odds that human life would evolve to the EXACT specifications on two different planets is astronomical. Is it just there so they can tie in the giant asteroid that caused the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event? I think it is. I did think that whole plot made the characters look like idiots. Mills is an experienced spacecraft pilot, so he is aware of what asteroids do. Yet when he spots a giant flaming rock moving gradually closer to earth, he just seems to be like “meh, not my world, not my problem, YOLO”. Both characters are a bit stupid to be honest. Koa traps a small dinosaur in a tunnel and throws a handful of grenades down, one would have done, and the other grenades could have been used for something else. It doesn’t matter in the end, they don’t need the grenades at any point, they were only used in 2 scenes and they didn’t matter. A lot that happens in this doesn’t matter. For example, at one point Mills wakes up and finds that Koa is foaming at the mouth. He opens her mouth and pulls a parasite out, then she recovers. That’s it, from “oh no, this character might die” to “everything’s fine” in less than a minute. The parasite thing isn’t mentioned again, doesn’t threaten the characters again, so ultimately a near-death of a main character means NOTHING. This keeps happening, something seemingly important happens, they get past it, the threat is no longer there. It’s not narrative, it’s video game levels. It might have worked better if the film had more survivors, then we could see them being killed off as the film develops. It would mean the world actually FEELS dangerous, instead of fake danger that we know can’t pierce the characters plot armour.

Of course, this could have been on a different planet with a different asteroid, and nothing would have been different. In fact, it didn’t even need to leave earth. The plot, as it is, would work perfectly fine if it was a character in modern times who is on a ship that lands on a deserted island full of creatures. I mean, that would basically be King Kong, but this is not a film aiming for originality anyway so fuck it.

So in summary; a film clearly aiming for spectacle, but instead ends up being utterly forgettable. Far too many pointless scenes adding up to a pointless movie. It also has possibly the worst title of the year in terms of making it easy to find in a few years time.

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