'Chaos Walking' Review
March 11, 2021
Like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson, Chaos Walking is the newest attempt to establish a lucrative franchise based on a series of popular teenage-audience books. But unlike those successful series, this Lionsgate release is more likely to fall in line with the other failures such as The Golden Compass and The Mortal Instruments.
Haven’t heard of this movie? Well, I wouldn’t blame you since Lionsgate has attempted to bury this money pit in the middle of the pandemic to save themselves from further embarrassment. Filmed in 2017 and originally to be released in early 2019, the film underwent extensive (and expensive) reshoots after the first cut was deemed unwatchable. It was shelved for nearly two years until crawling its way back from the grave into newly reopened theatres. So, is this movie as terrible as its reputation precedes it? No, but that’s not to say it isn’t bad.
Similar to all YA novels, Chaos Walking takes place in a dystopian space colony in 2257. This planet is like Earth, except that there is something in the atmosphere called The Noise. An introvert's worst nightmare, The Noise makes it where the thoughts of men are heard aloud, and is something our hero, orphaned Todd (Tom Holland), still has yet to control. Everything he thinks is broadcast to anyone within earshot, restricting any sense of privacy. No one knows why this is happening, and why women are not affected.
The colony Todd lives in also has no women there, as he is told the Spackle - the native inhabitants of the planet - killed off. Obviously, what you’re told isn’t always what actually happened.
Everything changes when a scout, Viola (Daisy Ridley), crashes on the planet. The leader of the colony decides to use her as bait to attract her command ship so he can ambush it and leave this godforsaken land. Naturally, Todd develops a crush on Viola, agreeing to help her escape to a deserted colony fitted with a communicator that she can use to warn her rescuers.
If you wanted to know what Tom Holland was thinking all the time, this will be a supreme disappointment to you. The character is very bland, and so are his thoughts, which consist solely of him saying his name to calm himself down and suppressing his budding feelings for his newfound partner. Holland tries to use his Peter Parker charm to make the character at least bearable, but the script makes his efforts a waste. The word bland is the best way to describe everything about this movie. It might be a weird movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s interesting.
There’s a lot of semi-world building here as we are introduced to all sorts of details about the planet and its backstory. I say semi because the movie never gives away too much information, as they want you to pay more for that in the sequels, which are never going to happen. It’s also done at a rapid pace, moving from one location to another like we’re just skimming through the pages. Adapting his book, writer Patrick Ness seems more interested in setting up sequels than establishing an interesting base.
Take for instance the Spackle, who look like all-black Martians and rightfully fought back against the colonizing humans. In this movie, we see them for one three-minute action scene. After that, they disappear completely and are never mentioned again. I was told by a friend that the Spackle are reintroduced in the third book, a fact that I audibly groaned at. I want to learn about these natives now, not these boring humans!
Even for a $100 million (+ reshoots) blockbuster, Chaos Walking is sparsely light on meaningful action. Director Doug Liman had the potential to mash the sci-fi and western genre into something off the beaten path, but he instead stays in the same lane as his contemporaries. Like Star Wars, the guns shoot plasma so the wounds are bloodless and any serious violence is cut away from. The one unique feature is the movie’s questionable hatred towards animals, as a horse is violently put down and a dog is drowned in the frame.
I’m glad no one in the cinema could hear my thoughts while watching this movie because my head was full of a lot of questions and negative comments. By next month, Chaos Walking will feel like a distant memory, a fact that we should all rejoice in. It was nice to be back in the cinema after a long while, I just wish it wasn’t for this.