starring Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman, Nika King
written and directed by Scott Beck & Bryan Woods
by Walter Chaw Bryan Woods and Scott Beck's 65 is a straight-line exercise: You are familiar with where it begins, you are familiar with where it ends, and you are familiar with the line it travels. It starts with a man of action mourning a lost child. He has an opportunity to become a surrogate father to a kid who has lost her parents. Their time in our company ends with them jetting off to further adventures. If it's true there are only one or two stories in the Western canon, then it's not about the what but the how. The how of 65 is piew piew piew lasers and rrrrraaaawr rwar rwaaar! dinosaurs. When I was in elementary school, my best friend and I decided the greatest movie ever would involve aliens fighting dinosaurs, because, as children, we were undemanding of our entertainment to do anything beyond satisfy the most simplistic desires of our pea-sized lizard brains. We kept spending eighty 1980s dollars on Atari 2600 games because we could imagine they looked good. It was during this period that I saw most of the terrible movies I still love unconditionally for their ability to remind me of how much more promise the world seemed to hold back then. I even have an Atari 2600 connected and in working order. I've been grateful to have grown out of being that easy to please, though now I can't think of a single reason why.
Because 65 is a movie about aliens and dinosaurs, it bodes well for my enjoyment of it circa 1982. The "alien" in 65 is named "Mills," which is so incredibly unimaginative it's a stroke of genius along the lines of calling an evil Matrix program "Agent Smith." I see what you're doing there, Beck and Woods. Mills (Adam Driver) is tasked with ferrying a cargo full of refugees in suspended animation at thrice his usual salary. It's a dangerous mission, of course, but he takes it because his daughter, Alya (Nia King), is sick with one of those mortal diseases where you grow progressively more tired and maudlin the closer you get to dying on a dramatic and meaningful grace note. (Why not name her "Joan?") Mills crash-lands on Earth 65 million years ago. All of his passengers perish except for one little girl, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), who appears to be the same age as Alya. Luckily for the two of them, she can't speak Mills's language (English)--I say "luckily" because this allows Driver and Greenblatt to do more acting. She reminds me of Jia from Godzilla vs. Kong, who, because she is a child of the earth, has a special bond with a giant ape. If you didn't find that trope offensive in 2021, you will likely never find it offensive and I hope you saw Avatar 2 as many times as you needed in order to trip the pleasure centre of your own pea-sized lizard brain. I mean that genuinely. It must be amazing to like things just because they're colourful and make piew piew rawwwr noises, you lucky sonofabitch. Although the air is breathable at the end of the Cretaceous period, it is, alas, crawling with dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that stand between Mills and Jia--I mean Ellie, I mean Boy, I mean Alya--and the top of a mountain, where sits a working spaceship that will get them off the planet.
If you know your prehistory, the end of the Cretaceous is when the tertiary extinction happened--the result, most believe, of an asteroid impacting the planet. Because it's not enough to have dinosaurs making travel difficult, imagine there's also an impending, world-ending asteroid on the way! Picture it! Can you? Go ahead and give it a shot during the endless pitch-black scenes set in caves and tunnels. (Evidently, an alien running around killing dinosaurs in the daytime doesn't hold enough visual interest compared to constant rain, gloom, and underground dank.) There is a hollow log chase, did I mention that already? No? Not to mention the absurdly tense quicksand sequence, the likes of which I haven't seen since "Gilligan's Island"--the "Waiting for Watubi" episode, to be specific, one of the black-and-white ones from the first season. Skipper's sinking into the ground, and Gilligan cuts down some vines from a tree to help him. Alya does that, too, which is amazing because that episode won't air for another 65 million years. I also remember a "Get Smart" where Max, 99, and the Chief all get caught in quicksand. Quite a sticky wicket, you'll agree. How did they get out? Well, you see, there's a giant magnet, and... Needless to say, there's more imagination employed in any five minutes of one of those shows than in any five minutes of 65. Which is to say, people will defend 65 for having nothing on its mind and doing nothing that is challenging in a vanilla way, but it doesn't need defending. It is entirely successful. It's like defending a tree sloth: unnecessary. Watch 65 with After Earth, why not, or Enemy Mine if you want something on the same buffet line with a bit more spice. Do what you want; I'm not the boss of you.