Something of an afterthought resume item for everyone involved, the new matinee programmer 65 actually stirs a weathered moviegoer’s heart: It’s short (93 minutes), it’s not a franchise or a reboot, it’s modest (if they spent a ton, you don’t see it), and it seems unabashedly targeted to fourth-graders, many of whom are still potentially fascinated with dinosaurs. This last point accounts for the scarcity of script — in fact, the movie opens with a title scroll that tells us flat out, “65 million years ago, a visitor crash-landed … on Earth.” Way to dot that i.

The visitor is Adam Driver, to whom we’re introduced on the “Planet Somaris,” where he’s about to embark on an undefined two-year mission and leave his lovely wife and daughter behind. Enter “undocumented asteroid belt” and his crash on some random blue-green planet, accompanied by one surviving passenger — a surrogate daughter who doesn’t speak English (see below), played by Ariana Greenblatt — and where he struggles to survive a cascade of video-game-like confrontations with the megafauna of the late Mezozoic. Which aren’t that mega; most of the slithery CGI theropods are the size, as it happens, of teenagers, until a few T-Rex-y beasts show up late. The bugs are large and ugly, and there is, thank heavens, quicksand.

Will they make it? Does a moony mega-dad defeat prehistoric tribulations to save his adorable substitute daughter, while shitting in the woods? Directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, mostly known as the screenwriters of A Quiet Place, know their audience — not you or me — and do not waste much time on thoughtful plotting, or how it is that this human-ish alien dude speaks English.

What was more entrancing to this late-boomer ex-kid, meaning me, was the attention to the terrain (shot mostly in Oregon and Louisiana), which conjured flashbacks to the definitive 20th-century picture book for dinosaur-aholics: Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Reptiles, a “Giant Golden Book” first published in 1960 and illustrated by the legendary Rudolph Zallinger. This is what it must’ve been like, not the Hawaii of Jurassic Park, and I zoomed back: the leafy, misty, unhumanized forest scapes, the giant dragonflies, the Allosaurus teeth sunk into the Bronto’s throat….

Zallinger could’ve helped with the screenplay, had he not died in 1995; he would’ve demurred at the film’s title, certainly, which may need explaining to everyone but the kids who remember that 65 million years ago was about the time, it has been deduced, that a giant asteroid took out the dinosaurs once and for all. So there’s that, comin’ at you, as if trying to liberate yourself and a child from a carnivorous deathworld in deep space isn’t enough — spoiler, I guess, 65 million years later.

The whole desperate dad thing gets wearisome, of course, as if the movie were conscientiously telling lonely 9-year-olds how much their absent work-junkie fathers actually love them. Which it is. Driver’s big salary-earning business trip isn’t happening “to you,” he tells his daughter (Chloe Coleman) at the outset, but “for you.”

That’s what they all say. But wait, you’re thinking from the beginning: Is Driver the vestige ancestor of all humanity, implanted Erich von Däniken–style on Earth by mistake? Are we all Driveroids? Well, that’d require more time spent on the screenplay than Beck and Woods seemed to want to invest, and anyway, what about that asteroid? The idea nags though — within minutes of waking up, Driver’s addled spaceman completely kills the first mini-dinosaur he sees, and you think, ‘Just like a human.’



























































































































































































































































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