There have been so many dystopian/sci-fi/alternate world movies about a dad figure leading a young girl/boy/Grogu to safety that when another pops up with its knowing variation, it automatically feels like we’ve been there/done that.
This time we get Daddy Mills (Adam Driver) on a two-year mission to drop some passengers somewhere (it’s never really specified what he’s doing, just that he’ll be gone a long time) and that he’s leaving his wife (Nika King) and his sickly daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman) to do so. For a good reason, however. You see, Nevine needs treatment that only money can solve, and this mission will provide that.
For the record, it is stated up front that this world where everyone speaks English and wears modern clothes isn’t Earth. It’s another planet far, far away. It just conveniently evolved as we did. (A fact that could have been a neat little plot point on a world where humans don’t exist yet. Hello!)
But when chunks of an asteroid hit Mills’ ship, and he has to make an emergency crash landing on an uncharted planet, it’s pretty obvious where he’s going to end up. Earth. But not, like, modern Earth. Nope. Prehistoric Earth. Pretty much on the eve of the asteroid hitting our planet and killing all the dinosaurs.
I guess that might be a spoiler, but it’s pretty obvious from the get-go, and the movie needs a ticking clock, so… there it is.
After crashing, Mills does the Luke Skywalker Dagobah exit (complete with swamp and scaly monster in the water) only to discover that all his passengers are dead, except one. A girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), who is from a different area of his home planet, so they don’t speak the same language.
From here on out, it’s Mills and Koa trying to communicate while running away from dinosaurs and avoiding the ’70s television staple of quicksand.
You’d think with the setup of a spaceman battling dinosaurs, you’d be in for a fun ride, but this isn’t what happens. Since we’ve seen six Jurassic Park films at this point, the dinos aren’t all that interesting, their jump-scare or slow reveals are fairly predictable, and nothing that happens to these two is anything we haven’t seen in dozens of these types of films before.
It’s a literal laundry list of action sequences and suspenseful situations from other movies, none of them with any dramatic variation to make them interesting. This brings up another problem.
Writer/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (who wrote A Quiet Place) don’t give Adam Driver anything to do emotionally. He has no character arc. He’s a loving father at the beginning of the film and a protective father figure throughout the rest of it. He doesn’t learn anything or really need to. There’s some mish-mosh with his daughter, who sends him messages ala Interstellar, but his reaction to these is what we would expect from a loving dad.
Greenblatt is compelling enough and believable during the journey, but aside from having to ultimately accept a traumatic fact, there isn’t much for her to do either but help Mills battle the big nasties.
Visually, it’s pretty cool, but also… we’ve seen it before. With A Quiet Place, we had interesting characters and people we grew to care about. Here, we aren’t given enough time to meet Mills before he’s up and off on his spaceship. His life at home is handled in about six minutes of screen time and then… blast off.
The first time we see Mills’ ship, it’s already being hit by asteroids. We haven’t been allowed to see Mills’ day-to-day life aboard his spacecraft. And when he has to look through a manual to figure out who the lone girl survivor is, you wonder what kind of captain he is not even to know the handful of passengers he has on board. Frozen or not, he should be aware of his cargo.
In the end, there are a few suspenseful moments, and at least Greenblatt is trying to give it her all despite a lackluster script. Driver, on the other hand, is clearly there for the paycheck.
It was a quick ride at an hour and thirty-three minutes, but it felt longer. Who would have thought pulse guns and T-Rexes could be boring? The asteroid didn’t miss, but this opportunity did.