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65: On the Brink of Extinction

by Assessor

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In 1954, a fascinating story emerged in issue 596 of the Four Color Comics magazine, published by Western Publishing. It introduced us to Turok, a Native American, and his younger brother Andar, as they stumbled upon a pre-Columbian valley populated by dinosaurs. Their journey was fraught with danger as they tried to escape this perilous place. Turok eventually gained his own comic book and became the star of a popular video game. However, he has yet to make an appearance on the big screen or television (aside from an forgettable direct-to-video animated film).

But boy, has Turok been influential! The 1969 film “The Valley of Gwangi” mixed dinosaurs with cowboys, while the animated series “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs” transported us to a post-apocalyptic future where these creatures roamed once again. Not to mention the cult series “The Lost World,” its corresponding theatrical film, the six “Jurassic Park” movies, and the recent jaw-dropping animated series for adults by Genndy Tartakovsky, “Primal.”

And even though these examples don’t feature dinosaurs, “Enemy Mine” by Wolfgang Petersen, “Aliens: Resurrection” (the James Cameron-directed sequel), “After Earth” (the box office disappointment by M. Night Shayamalan, which isn’t as bad as some say), “Predators” (the wonderful “Predator” prequel), and the excellent video game “The Last of Us” all draw heavily from the premise of the 1950s comic: Humans trying to survive in a strange land teeming with dangerous creatures.

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This brings us to “65: On the Brink of Extinction,” a film directed by the duo Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the minds behind the minimalist thrillers “Nightlight” and “Haunt,” as well as the screenwriters of two modern horror classics known as “A Quiet Place.”

In this story, our Turok is Mills, played by the ever-reliable Adam Driver. Mills resides on a distant planet with his partner Alya (Nika King) and their daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman). Interestingly, they speak English, despite their unique written code differing significantly from ours. Mills takes on a job transporting passengers on a special cryogenic spacecraft, leaving his daughter behind for a four-year absence. The reason? His beloved daughter is gravely ill, and the family needs money.

Mills embarks on his mission, but it goes horribly wrong due to a meteor shower that damages the ship and kills most of the crew. The surviving crew crash-lands on an unfamiliar planet, which turns out to be Earth. However, this is Earth 65 million years ago when dinosaurs ruled. Like a reverse Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Mills must try to survive in this wild and inhospitable environment, where he encounters his own Andar, or rather, his Friday, if we continue comparing “65” to Daniel Defoe’s novel or the 1964 science fiction film.

Mills finds a companion in Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a girl reminiscent of Aliens’ Newt and “After Earth’s” Kitai. Koa, which means “warrior” in Hawaiian, has been orphaned and doesn’t speak “English,” so Mills must communicate with her through sign language and repetition, much like Crusoe did with Friday. At least Turok never had this problem. But what Mills has that Turok never did is advanced technology.

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In addition to featuring a man caring for a child in an apocalyptic scenario (as seen in the magnificent films “The Road” and “Light of My Life”), “65: On the Brink of Extinction” offers suspense, thrills, and plenty of dangerous dinosaurs. It also includes cave-ins, tree falls, and quicksand, reminiscent of a more sophisticated version of “The Lost World.” And just as Joel grows to love Ellie in the video game and series “The Last of Us,” Mills, who misses his daughter dearly, forms a strong bond with this not-so-helpless girl.

Beck and Woods perhaps would have benefited from a more experienced director like John Krasinski (director of both parts of “A Quiet Place”) or Sam Raimi (the film’s producer) to truly send shivers down our spines. While they succeed at times, the result is more uneven than satisfying. Ultimately, we feel that this world is too small for an actor of Driver’s caliber, and it’s best for him to leave quickly before the meteorites wipe out the dinosaurs and his career. Meanwhile, fans of Turok and Andar will continue to wait, although it’s more likely that Ka-Zar, Marvel’s hero of the Savage Land, with his blond hair and fair skin, will make it to the big screen first.


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