Chaos Walking review – exposition in the not-too-distant future Chaos Film Theory

March 4, 2021
M.N. Miller 0
Film, Film Reviews
2

Summary

Chaos Walking is nothing but a stagnant and boring sci-fi adventure film that’s nothing but “exposition” in the not-too-distant future.

2

Summary

Chaos Walking is nothing but a stagnant and boring sci-fi adventure film that’s nothing but “exposition” in the not-too-distant future.

I’m not sure if you can call Chaos Walking new exactly. The original adaptation is from a book called The Knife of Never Letting Go, from the series of popular young-adult science fiction novels written by Patrick Ness. It has been in development for nearly a decade and has gone through a half dozen or so screenwriters. Even the great Charlie Kaufman gave it a swing. To make matters worse, Doug Liman’s YA sci-fi amalgamation has been shelved since debuting on the festival circuit in 2019. The result is a tired film with a tedious plot device that is more akin to Jumper than Edge of Tomorrow.

Chaos Walking has been described as a story in the not-too-distant future. The film takes place on New Earth, inhabitants are humans who traveled to the new world when the hero of our story, Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland), was an infant. Now grown up, only men are left to their thoughts and devices. The women were killed by the New Earth’s inhabitants, which is what Todd was told by his father, Ben (Demián Bichir), and the war hero Mayor (Mads Mikkelsen).

The thing is everyone can hear their thoughts. It’s called the “noise”. Most men have can control them, except for Tom, something hard for a teenager who is battling with raging hormones. A violent priest beats Todd (David Oyelowo) for hearing them. Even the Mayor’s spoiled kid, Davy (Nick Jonas), gets in on bullying Todd. Things start to look up for him, though, when a spaceship crashes near Todd’s home. The lone survivor is a young woman named Viola (Daisy Ridley). To her dismay, she becomes the highly sought-after commodity on the planet.

The official names on the final script are credited to Ness and Christopher Ford (Spider-Man: Homecoming). The result feels like Billy Walsh completed his adaptation of Lost in the Clouds that became Silo after a dozen rewrites. It is a predictable mess. Its twist on storytelling is where a purple special effect shows the “noise” redundantly going in the character’s heads. This becomes a crutch quickly and turns into nothing but excessive exposition. Some of it is used for humor, which Holland is very good at. Though, it’s repeated multiple times such that it loses the effect.

The cast has a lot of fine actors in it and they must have tried to hitch their wagons to a potential YA franchise and some handsome paydays. Mads walks around with a fur coat like the pimp he is and now without any women to put in line. Oyelowo’s role comes off as a needless one. His priest ends up doing something to a beloved pet that is predictable and breaks a cardinal rule of movies. It does nothing but let you know his character is a bad guy. Why? As if we didn’t know him trying to kill the two leads was a big tip-off? Bichir walks around with a concerned father’s brow in a thankless role. As for Jonas, it’s a small part. You have to wonder if his role was cut on the editing floor after reshoots or from the rewrite slaughter.

Chaos Walking is a film that has a feminist angle that would have worked better if written from a woman’s perspective. Or at least, the use of flashbacks or narrator, but the dark twist comes across as contrived. Combine this with some mildly effective special effects and little chemistry between Holland and Ridley, you get a stagnant and boring adventure film. It may as well have bee called an “exposition” in the not-too-distant future.

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