Review by Tim Robins – SPOILERS
In a month in which catchpenny titled films – Cocaine Bear and Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey – have attracted unwarranted attention, 65 has an unnecessarily coy title for an underwhelming movie about man versus dinosaurs in Earth’s prehistoric past. Pre-release, online chat fretted about exactly how such a conflict could plausibly happen: were we looking at an alien planet? Was this a time travel adventure? The posters were left to clarify the situation: “65 Million Years ago Earth had a visitor”.
So Adam Driver plays Mills,an alien who must raise funds to treat his ailing daughter by going on a two-year space mission (I’ll get back to that later). Unfortunately, Mills’s space ship is hit by a fragment of an asteroid that is heading to Earth. In a scenario reminiscent of 1968’s Planet of the Apes, his spaceship crash lands on Earth killing all the crew and passengers except for astronaut Mills and a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) who must cross the – to them – alien landscape to find a section of the ship that will allow them to escape. So the film is a two-hander and Driver (looking increasingly like Keanu Reeves) and Greenblatt are required to hold the attention although many individual sequences have a seen-it-all-before quality.
A Robinson Crusoe/Man Friday dynamic is set up as Koa speaks a different language to Mills and the ship’s translator is broken, so Koa takes on aspects of the primitive communicating by drawings and hand gestures. The pair bond over attacks by squishy insects, mild dino threats and having fun by creating hooting animal noises. The latter exemplifies the slick but befuddled thinking that informs the script.
Why does Mills teach his ward to make animal noises when the pair are surrounded by hostile animals that are likely to be attracted by the noise? The explanation is subtextual. Mills tried to teach his daughter the trick before having to abandon her on their homeworld and the script positions Koa as a surrogate. The flashbacks to Mills’s daughter also reassure us that Mills has no romantic feelings towards Koa. The script really is that transparently functional, including its delivery of a distinctly American value system that posits the essentials of life are a kick-ass bloke with a big gun and a small child to protect. Whatever.
While criticising various factual errors,The Smithsonian Magazine has been quick to draw parallels between the Cretaceous period and today’s American flora and fauna noting, “Many of the perils a Cretaceous traveller would face would be familiar to anyone who’s stumbled through the backcountry or gone camping far away from roads and fire pits… a time traveller would have to contend with fierce seasonal storms not unlike those seen in the southeastern United States each hurricane season. And, much like these hot and humid areas now, biting insects would likely present a hassle, too. The scene might recall someplace in Florida, wet and buzzing with bugs. Turtles, crocodile relatives, birds, lizards, fish and small mammals would be everywhere”.
You might also note that Mills’s homeworld had an American privatised health care system compelling him to raise money for his daughter’s health care by piloting the space expedition. I think I may actually hate this movie.
There’s no move that 65 makes that you haven’t seen before. The dinosaurs add nothing new and are actually a bit of a disappointment. A number of their menacing moments in the trailer turn out to be just that – moments. I felt thoroughly Dino-baited. It is almost impossible to go wrong with mixing humans and dinosaurs even if it is factually silly. And yet 65 fumbles the egg and ends up with dino-yoke all over its face.
Cinema has blithely exploited trope from Wills H. O’Brien’s 1925 adaptation of The Lost World to various recreational Jurassic parks. And there is still something awe inspiring about these gigantic beings that walked, swam or flew the Earth before being obliterated by an asteroid, allowing for the evolution of us.
Hollywood has made stars of certain Dinos – triceratops and T Rexes – but 65 seems to make a lot of creatures up. That’s fair enough because I’m pretty sure there were many more Dino species than those we have fossils for. But it is kind of disappointing that the main threat comes from unrecognisable, lizard-like crawling things. And their behaviour doesn’t ring true. Confronted with a strange prey that can destroy the pack with a beam of light, I’d expect most creatures to run away.
For me, 65’s world building fails on every level. Why does Mills’s expedition include passengers unable to cope with the demands of exploring a hostile environment? And how old would Mills be, returning to his home? I get that he is spending two years on an expedition, but that’s not likely to be the time that passes on his homeworld.
I was left appreciating the Jurassic Park/World films ability to evoke a sense of awe but I wish that Hollywood’s current plundering of Intellectual Properties would include Turok, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs or, best of all, 2000AD’s “Flesh”.
65 is in cinemas now
• 65 Official Site: 65.movie
A freelance journalist and Doctor Who fanzine editor since 1978, Tim Robins has written on comics, films, books and TV programmes for a wide range of publications including Starburst, Interzone, Primetime and TV Guide.
His brief flirtation with comics includes ghost inking a 2000AD strip and co-writing a Doctor Who strip with Mike Collins. Since 1990 he worked at the University of Glamorgan where he was a Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Media Studies and the social sciences. Academically, he has published on the animation industry in Wales and approaches to social memory. He claims to be a card carrying member of the Politically Correct, a secret cadre bent on ruling the entire world and all human thought.