The Pitch: “Prior to the advent of mankind, in the infinity of space,” the opening text crawl reads, “other civilizations explored the stars.” Adam Driver‘s Mills is from one of them, an everyman transport pilot tapped with shuttling a crew of passengers on a long-term exploration mission; the hazard pay promises to help him afford his sick daughter’s (Chloe Coleman) lifesaving procedure.
But as these things tend to go, disaster strikes, and his ship crash-lands on a mysterious planet, with a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) as the only other survivor. With their ship torn in half and the two speaking different languages, they must find a way to work together to traverse the dangerous forests and dark, dim caves between them and their rescue ship. There’s just one catch: This is Earth in the age of the dinosaurs, and the dinosaurs. Are. Pissed.
Jurasskin’ Too Much Of Your Audience: You’d think it hard to mess up a concept as transparently rad as “Adam Driver is a spaceman shooting at dinosaurs with a laser gun.” And to be fair, a few fun moments live up to that premise, though most of them were revealed in the film’s promotional materials.
T-rexes peeking into cave entrances, jump scares involving velociraptors, a cave chase that echoes The Descent — all of these offer some welcome demonstration of what’s promised on the tin. Not only that, a third-act complication cranks up the clock they’re running against: The asteroid that made their ship crash also happens to be the one that’ll soon wipe out the dinosaurs.
It’s handsomely staged, at least: Cinematographer Salvatore Totino (sadly, not of the pizza roll empire) mines a lot of spectacle from a two-person jaunt through the woods on a $45 million budget, and the costumes and futuristic gadgets are cool to look at, if a bit derivative. Across Mills and Koa’s 15-kilometer trek, they run across sandy beaches, roaring waterfalls, sinking quicksand, and a host of other outdoor environments that feel downright novel in the age of the Volume.
But save for one or two inventive complications in desperate times, Mills’ run-ins with the dinos are clunky and frustratingly straightforward: Terrible lizard hisses at Driver, driver points space gun at lizard, pew-pew, lizard goes away. Add to that the rubberiness of the CG with which these dinos are presented, and you’ll ache for the lived-in detail of even the later Jurassic Park/World films.