[Screen It]


(2023) (Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi: After crash-landing on Earth 65 million years ago, a pilot must do what he can to protect himself and a young girl from the various prehistoric dangers there.

It's sixty-five million years ago and Mills (Adam Driver) is an interstellar pilot who's about to leave his wife and daughter for two years on a mission that will help pay for a cure they hope will save their girl. But during the trip where Mills is the only passenger not in cryostasis, an unexpected asteroid field strikes the ship, damages it, and causes an emergency crash landing on an uncharted planet. Unbeknownst to him, it's Earth during the Cretaceous period, meaning the landing site is crawling with prehistoric dangers, including a variety of carnivorous dinosaurs.

Mills initially believes he's the sole survivor, but then finds 9-year-old Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) who doesn't speak English. Discovering that one of the ship's emergency escape pods is fifteen kilometers away, he then sets off with the girl in tow, hoping to get there and avoid those dinosaurs as well as the rest of those asteroids that are headed directly toward them.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

There's a pivotal scene in Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" that still stands in my book as being one of the most intense moments ever put on film. It's when the mighty dinosaur everyone's been waiting for finally shows up just as two jeeps lose power, briefly stranding the occupants just outside a dinosaur paddock. It's dark, and with the power out, the electrified fence no longer serves as a deterrent, and one by one the industrial-sized cables pop and spring away, eventually revealing a T-Rex.

It then begins to attack one of the vehicles inside which two young siblings are hiding, and they're pretty much scared to death, as are we, the horrified onlookers. Outside of the beach landing sequence of "Saving Private Ryan" (also directed by Spielberg), I can't recall being as intensely riveted as I was for however many minutes transpired until the thunder lizard's siege was over. Simply put, when done just right, you can't go wrong when mixing dinos and humans up on the big screen.

And thus I had high hopes for "65," the latest such flick to do just that, with my expectations high considering the sci-fi offering is written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods who wrote the original script for the terrific monster thriller, "A Quiet Place." The beauty of that film's clever premise lay in its title where the family had to be as quiet as possible since the extraterrestrial critters hunt by sound, thus putting a fun twist on the creature feature genre.

Alas, nothing as clever occurs here in what amounts to a fairly straightforward but somewhat surprisingly not terribly exciting or suspenseful 90-some minute ride into dino territory. The story revolves around an interstellar pilot (Adam Driver) whose spaceship encounters an unexpected asteroid belt somewhere along its two-year journey. That results in a crash-landing on an uncharted planet, with Mills believing he's the lone survivor until he discovers 9-year-old Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) also survived the crash, but doesn't speak English.

The only way out is a hopefully still functional escape pod, but it's fifteen kilometers away and the planet is teaming with dinosaurs. Of course, he doesn't know that's what they are as he's not from Earth and instead is a human being who existed 65 million years ago back when our world was going through its Cretaceous period.

Armed with a futuristic (at least to us and the dinos) weapon, the two must overcome various obstacles (including their ability to verbally communicate) to get to the pod and hopefully blast off before anything else bad can happen (and the third act throws in just that).

I know one is supposed to review any movie for what it is rather than what you think it should or could have been, but the screenwriter in me can't let go of the missed opportunities here. For one, we know from the get-go that Mills isn't an Earthling and that the planet he's crashed on is Earth. I would have gone the time travel route and had him as an Earthling who somehow travels a little further back than Marty McFly where something far worse than Biff resides. Thus, he'd have to weigh the possibility of changing the future via the old Butterfly Effect syndrome while trying to keep himself and Koa alive.

I didn't mind the half-gender reverse play on the pseudo-mother-daughter relationship of Ripley and Newt in "Aliens" by having Driver's character be the protective parent here. But that particular material doesn't feel as engaging as what transpired in the far better predecessor. Nor does the action, suspense, or human vs. monster moments.

It's not bad, mind you, it's just sort of lackluster considering the premise. And thus while Spielberg's signature scene in "JP" will probably stay with me for the rest of my life, "65" will be a long-forgotten blip of something I once saw. It rates as a should have, could have been better 5 out of 10.

Posted March 10, 2023

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