My Favorite Movie Trope Is Large Man Protecting Small Girl

He is bewildered by her. She is annoyed by him. Together, in the case of the insane new film 65, they fight dinosaurs.

My Favorite Movie Trope Is Large Man Protecting Small Girl
Large man, small child, and looming dino. Image:Sony

There is a movie out now called 65 in which Adam Driver fights dinosaurs. I hadn’t heard of it before this week but was convinced to buy a ticket by that description alone: “Adam Driver fights dinosaurs.”

65 takes place 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs have but days to live before an asteroid careens into Earth. Adam Driver is not human; he is from an alien race that developed more than 65 million years before humans, but looks and thinks exactly like humans, so go figure. His spacecraft crash-lands on Earth, and he is the only survivor except for a small girl who looks like a young Mila Kunis, Koa. They’ve got to fight the dinosaurs—there is no gentle, long-neck giant representation in 65; all of the dinosaurs hanker for flesh—and you know what? That’ll only happen if they set aside their differences (age, musculature) and work together.

This leads us to what I believe would have been an even more persuasive tagline: “Large man and small girl help each other fight dinosaurs.”

The Adam Driver in 65 is not tall and gangly Adam Driver. He’s tall and absolutely bulked Adam Driver, towering over Koa. He’s very sweaty or otherwise wet most of the time. He cannot understand her nor she him, thanks to a language barrier, but they make a go at important words like “mountain” and “family.” He is befuddled by her mere existance—he does not try to comfort her, and though her parents died in the crash, he lies and tells her they’re on top of said “mountain.” Koa is tenacious and obviously annoyed that Adam Driver cannot understand that her face is very clearly conveying confusion, fear, and grief. There are fucking dinosaurs everywhere! What makes their personality clash all the more goofy is that Adam Driver plays a dad in 65. In fact, being a dad is his sole character trait! Why is he so confused by this young girl?

But, in my book, large man perplexed by small girl whom he is tasked with protecting is an equation for action movie magic. What a good use of juxtaposition. There’s the physical comedy element of it—a hulking brute who’s greatest nemesis is a gangly 9-year-old in need of an attitude adjustment. Even better, though, is the ever-implicit theme that the girl is infinitely smarter than her hulking brute. She’s running this show.

Perhaps no one was more perplexed by a young girl than Tom Cruise’s character in War of the Worlds, who was tasked with protecting his daughter (Dakota Fanning) from aliens. He really did not get her; she really sassed him. In another distant-dad movie that made excellent use of physical size, The Game Plan, Dwayne Johnson plays a (huge) football player who has to unexpectedly start parenting his tween daughter. What an odd duo! From there you can level up to The Pacifier, in which Vin Diesel is a marine who’s ordered to babysit a bunch of kids, most of whom are wispy and quite unimpressed with his biceps. (This is genuinely a great movie—perhaps the best of the sub-sub-subgenre.) In one of his 8 trillion action flicks, Jason Statham rescues a young girl from a gang and then gets stuck with her. A towering Jeff Bridges gets an earful from pigtailed Hailee Steinfeld out West in True Grit. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator in Terminator 2 whose computer programming does not include a manual to parent preteen John Connor—who is, granted, a boy, but this equation has variables. In every case, team work between man and child makes the dream work.

I could get pop-psychological here and say something about these movies successfully targeting our various daddy issues—nearly all these large men are substitute dads or absent dads, and their roads to redemption entail navigating intense peril with daughter-like figures. Is this cinematic atonement for the vast sins of man? Maybe filmmakers believe that by offering us audiences the feeling of protection by proxy, we’ll be able to heal from our own various abandonments. After all, we come to this place for magic! Or is there a uniquely masculine impulse to be large and kill beast or alien or bullies on behalf of a little girl that I don’t know about? That honestly seems more likely.

I do not for a second believe that one needs a father figure to be of formidable physique and gruff manner to feel protected by him. I do, however, want to watch more action movies like this. I am taking recommendations. Surely John Cena will crank one out pretty soon.

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