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You’d think a movie in which Adam Driver fights a bunch of dinosaurs couldn’t possibly be boring, but that’s exactly what “65” is.
This is a movie that would have benefitted from being a whole lot stupider. The big-budget sci-fi flick—which reportedly cost $91 million to make and was featured in a Super Bowl ad—should have embraced its inherent B-movie roots. Instead, it tries to juggle a wild survival story with a poignant family drama, but both elements feel so rushed and underdeveloped that neither ends up registering. There’s nothing to these characters, and the action sequences quickly grow repetitive and wearisome. There’s a jump scare, insistent notes from an overbearing score, some running and screaming, the gnashing of teeth, and maybe an injury before a narrow escape. Over and over and over again.
But the film from the writing-directing team of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, whose credits include co-writing “A Quiet Place” with John Krasinski, offers an intriguingly contradictory premise. It takes place 65 million years ago, but suggests that futuristic civilizations existed back then on planets throughout the universe. On one of them, Driver stars as a space pilot named Mills. He’s about to embark on a two-year exploratory mission in order to afford medical treatment for his ailing daughter (Chloe Coleman from “My Spy,” who’s featured in the film’s prelude and sporadic video snippets).
On the way to his destination, the ship Mills is flying enters an unexpected asteroid field, gets torn to shreds, and crashes. All of the passengers in cryogenic sleep are killed—except one, who just happens to be a girl around the same age as his daughter. Her name is Koa, and she’s played by Ariana Greenblatt. And the planet, which has swampy terrain reminiscent of Dagobah, just happens to be—wait for it—Earth.
“65” requires Mills and Koa to schlep from the wreckage to a mountaintop so they can commandeer the escape pod that’s perched there and fly out before dinosaurs can stomp and chomp on them. The creatures can be startling at times, but at other times they look so cheesy and fake, they’re like the animatronics you’d see at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. And yet! It almost would have been better—or at least more entertaining—if “65” had leaned harder into that silliness if it had played with the basic ridiculousness of mixing complex technology with the Cretaceous period. They rarely use Mills’ advanced gadgets in any inspired ways within this prehistoric setting. The few attempts at humor fall flat—they mainly consist of Koa making fun of Mills for being uptight—and moments of peril wrap up too tidily for us to luxuriate in their anxiety.
Worst of all, Driver doesn’t get to ham it up nearly enough here. He’s an actor of great intensity, which can be both thrilling and amusing if he’s amping it up in a knowing way. Imagine him screaming “More!!!” as he’s blasting Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” or punching a wall during an argument in “Marriage Story.” But the man he plays in “65” is blandly heroic and just seems generally annoyed. Greenblatt, meanwhile, does the best she can with a character we know absolutely nothing about. Koa speaks a language that’s not English, so most of her exchanges with Mills consist of mimicking the basic words he says to her, including “family.” There’s no real bond between them, but neither is there any sort of prickly tension since they’re stuck with each other. “The Last of Us,” this is not.
Beck and Woods offer some clever camerawork here and there, but also some erratic editing choices. And they borrow quite a bit from the “Jurassic Park” franchise: a giant footprint in the mud or a dinosaur’s yellow eye leering menacingly through a window. But maybe that’s inevitable at this point. Their film only gets truly enjoyably nutty toward the end, with its climactic combination of a sneaky quicksand patch, a ravenous Tyrannosaurus rex, a well-timed geyser eruption, and a catastrophic asteroid shower. But by then, it’s too late for us—and the planet.
Now in theaters.