It is the year 2021 and we are still getting young adult adventure adaptations like Chaos Walking…go home! Twilight and The Hunger Games were eons ago! People aren’t showing up in the dozens to watch these movies anymore. Was the failure of the Divergent series not big enough of a sign to studios!? Of course, the irony is I spent money to watch Chaos Walking. Damn you Tom Holland!
Adapted from the book series written by Patrick Ness, Chaos Walking is a film about a dystopian world of only men whose thoughts can be heard out loud (this is called their “noise”). Todd Hewitt (Holland) lives on a farm with his father Ben (Demián Bichir) and his father’s lover Cillian (Kurt Sutter). He is bored living on the farm and wants to prove himself tough so he can impress his community’s mayor (Mads Mikkelsen). Other members of the community include a fiery preacher (David Oyelowo) and the mayor’s gullible son (Nick Jonas). When a group of astronauts crash land on the planet, and a woman, Viola (Daisy Ridley), is the only survivor, her life is instantly in danger when she is discovered. Todd takes it upon himself to protect Viola from the other men of his community as they traverse the dangerous landscapes of the world to find a way for her to communicate with her mother ship.
To an extent, the sentiment expressed in the opening of my review should be excused – Chaos Walking isn’t a project that was made yesterday. The film was announced in 2011 and has undergone several rewrites since then (the first draft was written by Charlie Kauffman, what a film that could’ve been). Following poor test screenings, the film was pulled from its original release date in 2019 for reshoots. In summary, Chaos Walking has been in production hell for a decade. So, did director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow and The Bourne Identity) finally get it right after all these years? Yes and no.
Chaos Walking is a disorienting film, as it should be. We are quickly introduced to this world where thoughts almost entirely replace actual speaking; voices talk over each other but mouths hardly ever move. The special effects team includes a swirling, colorful cloud above characters’ heads representing their thoughts. Some men better control their noise such as Mikkelsen’s fur-coat wearing mayor, and others, like the youthful Todd, struggle to contain it. This gets him in trouble more than once.
The concept of everyone, or the men at least (women are fortunate enough to have their thoughts remain hidden, hence the target on their back), having their thoughts heard is an interesting idea. However, like everything else in the movie it’s never given more than a surface-level explanation/exploration. Characters are mostly one-dimensional and merely exist within the movie. Sorry, fans of the Jonas Brothers, Nick Jonas might as well have not been in the film.
The saving grace of Chaos Walking is its two stars, Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley. Holland seems to be popping up everywhere nowadays, with what feels like a new movie each week. There’s a reason for that – the kid has charisma. Holland can make a bad movie watchable and he does here. The chemistry between him and the most recent face of Star Wars works decently enough, and I’d be willing to watch the two collaborate again on a different feature.
Chaos Walking is a mindlessly enjoyable sci-fi thriller, if a forgettable one. I wish the movie had the proper amount of development to coincide with its world and character building. Also, be prepared for a glimpse of Tom Holland’s bare ass – I may have just sold the movie for some of you.