Chaos Walking Review
Dystopian futures are something we saw a lot of a few years back. The Hunger Games series appearing in the taillights of Twilight, giving teens love triangles and conceptual futures to consider. For all the various shouts of derivative material, under-developed characters and contrived scenarios, they triggered a phenomenon. The novel, ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ by Patrick Ness, author of the book behind the stunningly sad A Monster Calls, was released at the height of this phase. Not too hot off the mark were the adaptations, however. Doug Liman, the director of Edge Of Tomorrow (or whatever title they eventually settled on) signed on to direct in 2016, and originally slated for release in 2019, Chaos Walking, the title taken from the book series rather than the book itself, was sent for extensive reshoots thanks to poor test screenings.
It is finally due for release in 2021, and the question is, has the bubble burst? Are audiences still wanting to watch post-apocalyptic dystopian stories about teenagers? The collapse and disappearance of subsequent episodes of the Divergent and Maze Runner film series suggests not. But can Chaos Walking sneak through, finding an audience where there may no longer be one?
Honestly? I have no idea. But, for the most part, the film is actually ok.
We open with a description of the world we are being introduced to. A planet where there are no women, and the thoughts of men are both audible and visible. Known as “noise”. Tom Holland stars as Todd Hewitt, the youngest inhabitant of his village. He repeats the phrase “My name is Todd Hewitt… my name is Todd Hewitt…” as a way to manage his thoughts and guard them from too much visibility from others. Todd stumbles across a crashed ship, and meets Viola (Daisy Ridley) among the wreckage. The appearance of a lone woman on a planet seemingly populated only by men obviously triggers certain situations, and eventually Todd and Viola are forced to travel alone to try and find her a way to contact her ship so she can be rescued.
The visualisation of thoughts are well realised and charming to watch, initially feeling a little like pointless exposition but soon settling into a useful plot device. We are given hints about characters' histories in a way that feels organic, and at times the noise is used as a weapon as well as a hindrance. This is when the film is at it's most interesting.
The themes addressed are stunningly relevant too, as we are shown in real time what is meant by movements such as #metoo and #notallmen. Some scenes are uncomfortable to watch because of this, but not including them would be ignorant and tone deaf. They are distressingly accurate.
Chaos Walking is not without its flaws, we are introduced to an alien species, but this never really goes anywhere. All the true conflict is against other humans, and as this seems unlikely to get the sequels it was originally designed to have, the introduction of the aliens feels like a pointless segue. The ending is anticlimactic, and again a lot of time is spent building a world rather than building a plot. This film is weaker for the fact that it is unlikely to get its sequels. A sad fact that may hopefully encourage future filmmakers to focus on the film they are making now, rather than counting the money they’ll make for their third or fourth instalment.
We are however graced with an excellent cast, and some good performances. Tom Holland is as watchable as ever, and Daisy Ridley is fine as Viola, though she isn’t given very much to do. Mads Mikkelson and Cynthia Erivo are of course always on top form, and David Oyelowo has a terrifying turn as a religious zealot whose thoughts manifest as scripture and flames.x
Overall, this is a film that fans of similar dystopian stories will enjoy. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch, but it’s not a complete failure either, and for my part, I’d like to have seen the story continued.
Chaos Walking will be available on VOD from April 2nd.
Chaos Walking (2021)
Dir: Doug Liman | Cast: Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelsen, Ray McKinnon, Tom Holland | Writers: Charlie Kaufman (screenplay by), Christopher Ford (screenplay), Patrick Ness (novel), Patrick Ness (screenplay)
The Hunger Games (2012)
Dir: Gary Ross | Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Willow Shields | Writers: Billy Ray (screenplay), Gary Ross (screenplay), Suzanne Collins (novel), Suzanne Collins (screenplay)