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'65' is the Latest Dinosaur Flick in a Jurassic World

"65" (2023) is the latest Dino flick to try and answer "what else can we do with dinosaurs?"

65 (2023) is The Last of Us with Alien and Jurassic Park thrown in for some extra razzle-dazzle.

How does one make a movie about a natural predator terrorizing humans in a new way? This is the question many modern monster movies run into at conception. Most never convincingly answer. No shark movie after Jaws has done much more than solidify the shark-movie conventions set forth by that blockbuster by more or less following the story beats. Most are disregarded as cheap mockbusters save a handful like Deep Blue Sea and 47 Meters Down. And even these films only really changed the location, being completely immersed in the ocean as opposed to on a beach and/or in boats.

Dinosaur movies have the same issue in a post-Jurassic Park franchise world. There are only so many famous theropods (two-legged, mostly carnivorous dinosaurs), namely the T-Rex and raptors, and only so many ways they can terrorize and/or kill people onscreen. Even the Jurassic Park sequels exhausted this formula and had to come up with hybrid monsters to continue the horror factor.

65 tries to answer the question of how can we show viewers a new experience with scary dinosaurs by going the Deep Blue Sea/47 Meters Down route, changing the location to Earth 65 million years ago. The characters are futuristic space travelers who land on Earth, making the dinosaurs aliens. Finally, Adam Driver uses his real-life marine training to infuse a militaristic aspect into Mills. Mills is essentially Joel from The Last of Us, a father-turned-hardened-survivalist in an inhospitable world. The outcome is a serviceable movie. Well-crafted cinematography, nonstop space marine action scenes, and interesting jump scares.

However, the emotional weight of the film often feels inconsequential. The young girl, Koa (Arianna Greenblatt), feels like she is just there to create a false sense of danger. But we all know from film convention, Dino movie convention in particular, that a child will not likely be killed onscreen, nuking any suspense when she is in danger. Her particular quirk wears thin quickly also. Why Mills’ (Adam Driver) daughter, Nevine (Chloe Coleman), and Koa’s character weren’t combined remains a mystery. Someone in the writer’s room had to have known this would draw instant parallels between Mills and Joel from The Last of Us. Perhaps that was the point, using a trendy show’s emotional story beats to add a layer to this survivalist action flick.

The nonstop attacks also wear suspense thin, even as they try to have Mills’ realistically reacting to injuries. There are only two characters who survive the crash landing, our protagonists, so we are mostly confident nothing permanent will happen to either. It feels like wave after wave of theropod dinosaur attacks that Mills handles with essentially a high-tech shotgun. There is no sense of wonder to balance the spectacle. Steven Spielberg wisely set the horror tone of the Jurassic Park film with the raptor scene in the intro and then builds a sense of wonder with the majestic herbivore dinosaurs. In 65, we get several hordes of carnivores that progressively grow in size until we reach a gigantic pair of T-Rexes. It’s the Last of Us, down to the hordes, boss zombies, and a replacement relationship with a young girl.

If there was ever a Dino movie that could be argued is science fiction and thriller, not horror, it would be 65. Seeing people hunt dangerous animals is far less emotionally arresting than seeing scary animal attacks. Ditto for a space marine wasting dinosaurs with high-tech weaponry. 65 is a watchable movie that would probably have worked better as a video game, it definitely gives Dino Crisis vibes. But that is just one more trait it shares with The Last of Us. 65 is space cowboys and dinosaurs; make of that what you will.