IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 95 mins
REVIEWED BY; Dr Lenera
65 million years ago on the planet Somaris, pilot Mills convinces his wife Alya that he should go on a two-year space expedition in order to gain money to help treat the illness of their daughter Nevine. However, on the journey back he crashes into Earth to avoid an asteroid. His ship splits in half and all his passengers die except a young girl named Koa, whom he decides to take care of, though the two have difficulty communicating due to differing languages. Mills later discovers that the other half of the ship contains a functioning escape shuttle and sends a distress beacon for rescue, then sets off for it with Koa, though he lies about her parents being alive to encourage her to go with him. However, this is during Earth’s Cretaceous period, so there are dinosaurs about….
Aliens ending up on our planet during the age of the dinosaurs. Well, it sounds like an exciting idea. Aliens and dinosaurs! How cool. However, it’s no more than that – an idea. And this latest effort from the duo who created the A Quiet Place franchise, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, takes this idea – and does hardly anything with it. I haven’t seen the trailer, because I’m not a big fan of trailers these days [so much so that I always try to time it so that I enter the cinema just after they’ve ended] for several reasons, but that’s a moan for another time!. However, based on what one of my co-writers on this website said, it seems as if the trailer for this is basically the film, probably minus the big special effects climax which may be big but isn’t exactly special, partly because the budget clearly wasn’t anywhere near high enough to do it justice, and partly because it’s virtually telegraphed in the first ten minutes, so much so that I was saying to myself in my head, “No, they won’t go with this, it’s too obvious, Back and Woods are being clever here and have given us what’s virtually the equivalent of a red herring here”. The whole thing is amazingly pedestrian, a series of set pieces which are mostly the same and which, with the odd exception, are curiously lacking in tension or fear, interspersed with emotional drama which, to be fair, does sometimes work due to the very fine performances of Adam Driver, an actor who’s impressing me more and more with each film [his turn in the criminally underrated The Last Duel, a film I so wanted to review and sing some praises for, and just didn’t have the time to do so, was quite stunning], and young Ariana Greenblatt, who had a small role in Infinity Wars: Part 1 and more substantial ones in Love And Monsters and especially Awake which is a film I keep meaning to see. But they’re adrift in a sea of blandness and a distinct lack of imagination, so much so that you may wish that you could pick the two of them up and plonk them in s different film!
Opening text tells us how the inhabitants of other planets have traveled through space as the camera takes us on a journey through space; we’ve seen it all before but it’s still a decent beginning. Then we find ourselves on the planet Somaris, and instantly the problems begin. We see Mills talking to his wife Alya on a beach while their daughter Nevine plays in the water. It seems like we’re on Earth, the only difference being that we can see some cliffs that curl [which probably sounds weirder and more interesting than I meant it to mean]. Even these beings look and act just like humans. Seeing as there was clearly no inclination to present us with a proper alien world or humanoids that didn’t seem the same as us, it surely would have been better to tell us that this was some kind of alternate Earth – admittedly I’m a fan of that concept, what with all its potentially deep philosophical elements and love seeing it in films and TV, but still? Anyway, Mills has just got this job that will enable him to fund Nevine’s treatment, so is going to be away for some time. Some time later, on the journey back to Somaris, he crashes into Earth, narrowly missing an asteroid, and the title finally comes up, telling us that we’re in the Cretaceous period, the second of the two eras in Earth’s prehistory that were dominated by dinosaurs, but I was distracted by the screenwriters apparently being unaware of the fact that an asteroid is not a meteor until it hits a planet’s atmosphere, so they call it a meteor right away. Okay, this film is just meant as escapist entertainment, but that’s a pretty stupid gaffe to make, it just makes the writers seem thick, which they’re probably not. But then again these people are actually from another world, so maybe what they consider to be a meteor isn’t what we consider to be a meteor? Oh hell, I’m clutching at straws here, half-heartedly defending a film just because it has – aliens ending up on our planet during the age of the dinosaurs! Well in my defense I so so wanted it to be good. Unfortunately I kept on, and still keep on now, imagining in my head a much more thrilling and inventive film then the one we got.
Just after the crash there’s one thing that really is very cool to those of us who love the science fiction movies of old. We hear the exact same sound effects that accompanied the scene in the 1953 version of The War Of The Worlds when the Martian meteorite lands, part of it unscrews and that sinister cobra-like metallic head rises out and slowly moves about to the awe of the soon-to-be-killed onlookers. What a lovely tribute to an iconic and highly influential film which probably thrilled some of the filmmakers when they watched it on TV as young kids, just as it did me. Having found out that everyone else on the ship dies, Mills, perhaps understandably, considers committing suicide, but then he starts to look around. comes across a lone survivor, though she’s scared of him at first, which is odd seeing as presumably they saw each other on the ship – or maybe they didn’t? But then what on earth was a young girl doing on a two-year scientific expedition anyway? I know I keep on asking questions in this review, but this is one of those films which causes one to ask questions frequently, so I don’t feel that I ought to apologise. It soon becomes apparent that, when the ship split in two, the other half not just landed some distance away but conveniently didn’t crash, instead landing atop a mountain so that it can easily be seen! And not just that, there’s a shuttle in it for getting away. What a stroke of luck! Mills tells Koa that they’re going to go to the mountain where the craft needed to get off the planet is, although he lies about her parents being alive to encourage her to go with him. This seems pretty underhand, but Driver acts the scene so well that we don’t dislike him that much for doing such a mean thing to a child. You know that the truth is going to emerge eventually, so I don’t think that this counts as a spoiler, but the scene in which it does – oh my god! – it’s so weak and lame, so much so that it might have been better if they didn’t have it at all. The duo get closer to the ship, but remember we’re in the Cretaceous period, so dinosaurs abound.
There’s a dinosaur encounter around every ten minutes, but the sameness becomes rather numbing, with Mills possessing a lot of futuristic technology, which brings up the question as to whether Somaris could be a future Earth. Sometimes stupidity arises. At one point, despite being close to some dangerous creatures, Koa curls up in a ball afraid while Mills sits patiently for nighttime to fall, thus exposing them even further. Duh? But then this a film where is Mills has a GPS gadget which tells him that the reflection he sees in the distance is 15 kilometers away. Seriously. This guy is from another planet. Are kilometers universal? There’s an early encounter with a dinosaur, possibly a Pelycosaurus, stuck in mud which Mills and Koa rescue before it quickly lumbers off and meets a rather gruesome end, a scene which aims for some poignancy like the ill Triceratops in Jurassic Park followed by a shock, but every other animal is dangerous and seemingly a meat eater. As if in an effort to have dinosaurs in a movie but be as far from Jurassic Park as possible, any possible awe for them is removed, so all we have are monsters which don’t feel or behave like real animals. There don’t seem to be any herbivores living on this area of the planet either. So we have a lot of predators; a Deinosuchus, Velociraptors, a fictional cross between an Ankylosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Nothosaurus, and a strange Tyrannosaurus that can walk on all fours, plus a weird looking species of Pterosaur, possibly Deinonychus though it’s hard to tell. Yet this doesn’t mostly feel like a dinosaur movie, it feels like a monster movie disguised as a dinosaur movie, yet even as a monster movie it’s a let down. The most disappointing scene could be when the two come across a beach full of the Deinonychi, who remain grounded on the beach, none of them flying around except for a few in the distance.
Out of the many attack scenes, two carry a slight charge of terror, and there’s a rather good “trapped in a cave” scene, but that’s really it. The final dinosaur sequence can be predicted in terms of what it’s going to be, and offers nothing new when it appears. Still, a lot of the CGI is pretty good, at least concerning the dinosaurs, who, even they aren’t often handled well in terms of the script, do come across as living creatures. Some closeups of their faces are especially impressive. The growing relationship between Mills and Kia, if developed in quite a familiar fashion, is nicely handled at times, even though they have to do much of their communicating without speaking due to not understanding each other’s languages [though to make it easier for us to understand Mills speaks in English]. In fact the small amount of dialogue allows Driver and Greenblatt to really show their acting chops, which are considerable. The writing isn’t great for much of the time, but it has its moments and the stars do their very best to make it work. The emotional core is something that I won’t mention as it’s brought to the fore about half way through by a surprise [probably the film’s only real one] but it does hit home despite some clumsy editing together of shots from different times. Salvatore Totino’s cinematography of the forests of Oregon and swamps of Louisiana is impressive, but little attempt has been made for the locales to seem prehistoric. Then there’s the odd situation with the music score. Danny Elfman was initially going to do duties, but collaborator Chris Bacon ended up writing the score while Elfman just composed a few tracks. However, Michael Giacchino served as “score consultant”, while Gad Emile Zeitune is credited with “additional music”. At least all this means that the score is quite diverse, with three different sound worlds, though it obviously lacks cohesion. The slower cues come off best, too many of the suspense cues employing those dull repeated patterns that Hans Zimmer and his minions have done to death.
Could 65 have really been much good? Some would no doubt say “Not really”, after all it does sound like a direct-to-DVD cheapie, but my answer is “Yes”, if its writers had used its premise as a starting point rather than just simply extended it, and if Beck, who also directed, had attempted to bring some actual urgency to what we see enacted on screen. Instead we’re left with an offering that mostly just stays in one place despite all the traveling that its hero and heroine do, which is not genuinely bad [my star rating reflects that] but is just pedestrian, which is sometimes worse – after all, we all love some bad movies, don’t we? Aliens ending up on our planet during the age of the dinosaurs. Wow! What an idea. Could make a good film one day. One day.