1Hot on the heels of the best dirty movies of 2022, cinema-goers were treated to a fair few strong outings to commence 2023. EO (Jerzy Skolimowski), Tár (Todd Field), Broker (Hirozaku Koreeda), The Whale (Darren Aronofsky), and even M3GAN (Gerard Johnstone) won over critics. M3GAN will undoubtedly become the first installment of a six-movie spanning annual horror franchise. Then, on March 10th, a rather unassumingly named 65 (Scott Beck, Bryan Woods) made it to the big screen, coming in with a lot of promise.
Created by the writers of A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018), and produced by Sam Raimi, 65 promised to be well made, utilise the elements, tell a human story, and deliver some well-worked tension and scares. In fact, the duo behind 65 even stated that they wanted a terrifying dinosaur movie that would unseat the monopoly of the Jurassic Park franchise and do something very different.
There is certainly credence to this desire. Jurassic Park has become the brand of dinosaurs on the big screen and beyond. Other dinosaur movies tend to have them as side features, as in King Kong, or struggle to move further than the foundations of the 1993 blockbuster hit. It was a big ask for a flick with two actors, 93 minutes of run time, and a $45 million budget, but the pieces initially looked to be falling into place to make 65 a dirty hit of 2023.
Taking down the Jurassic behemoths
Since arriving in 1993, the Jurassic Park trilogy and sequel Jurassic World trilogy have made over $6 billion at the worldwide box office, per TheNumbers. It can very easily be argued that The Lost World and Jurassic Park III were unnecessary by virtue of their stories, and that the three films set later didn’t add anything to the tale, but all movies got a strong budget and, at least aesthetically, delivered the most real-looking dinosaurs ever put to the big screen.
The box office dominance and quality of the dinosaurs have successfully made Jurassic Park the dinosaur brand in entertainment. This has led to other entertainment products needing to draw from the brand for similar creations. Take the online slots at Betway, where there are several Jurassic Park and Jurassic World slots. All of them rank highly among the online slots available, and there are very few other dinosaur slots made for the platform.
Jurassic Park is as much of an entertainment franchise as they get. Its dominance extends to Frontier Developments needing to lend its name, setting, characters, and aesthetics for the dinosaur-centric park-building simulation. Further, Mattel makes huge sums thanks to it getting the license for the movies to create action figures. In mid-2022, Jurassic World fever was cited by Mattel as contributing to their 44 percent climb in gross billings.
Jurassic Park and Jurassic World don’t just lend distinct aesthetics and proven-quality brand to dinosaur products, however. There are also distinctly familiar story beats. Usually, things work out for all of the main characters with little loss sustained; humans tend to be the bigger threat or problem than dinosaurs; and people tend to make daft errors that lead to others getting chomped. These tropes can be worked well in familiar ways, as Cryptozoo (Dash Shaw, 2021) did, but the box office could really do with a big hit that defies the Jurassic model.
Struggles to escape the trappings
As part of his recent slate of roles, seemingly trying to shrug off his run as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars sequels, Adam Driver comes into 65 evidently physically committed to the part and its tight story focus. The sci-fi elements are infused rather well, and he’s a strong enough presence to believe that he could survive and care for one other in this prehistoric world, but the story simply doesn’t give us enough to make anything happening much of a threat to the core cast.
There’s a bit of perhaps unintentionally humorous gore, more about jump scares than chase scenes, but what would have split 65 from the Jurassic movies would have been real suspense-building and failed heroics. Some good shots allowed for a bit of suspense, as the trailer eludes to, but the potential here is certainly squandered. This is only made more poignant by the goofy conclusion during the race against time and the eventual final shot of the two characters.
With Driver putting this much into the performance, a chance for an almost Logan-like relationship between him and Koa, dinosaurs being truly terrifying in the right context, and horror-thriller greats being on set, 65 really should have been better. Instead, it falls for much of the established trappings of Jurassic Park movies, but with admittedly more gnarly-looking dinosaurs than the franchised flicks.
In fairness, 65 could be seen as having gone through production hell, but it had much more potential to make it big at the box office in spite of the dominance of the Jurassic brand. That’ll be the legacy of 65 (lost potential) reaffirming Jurassic Park as the cinematic dinosaur brand.