Chaos Walking (Fantasy, Adventure, Sci-Fi) [Based on a Novel] (2021)
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Cristopher Ford, Patrick Ness (Based on Novel by)
Stars: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Demián Bichir, Mads Mikkelsen
Years after a fierce war wiping out all women on a then-newly colonised world, Todd Hewitt lives close to a human settlement with his adoptive fathers. On arrival at this planet, every man was afflicted by a condition they now call ‘’The Noise’’ which makes their thoughts appear and be heard externally.
Being in production since 2011, ‘’Chaos Walking’’ has had several different screenplay writers attempt to adapt Ness’ novel. After some left and others never coming to progressing enough to finalise the project, Doug Liman entered the picture in 2016. Likely Intended as a trilogy, remaking the ‘’The Knife of Never Letting Go’’, ‘’The Ask and the Answer’’ and the ‘’Monsters of Men’’ novels; ‘’Chaos Walking’’ has been deemed a box office flop making any sequel appear unlikely.
As someone unfamiliar with Ness’ work, it’s fair to admit the idea behind it is interesting although flawed. While that is entirely up to the original work or caused by the screenplay writer and director is unclear, though. The setting itself is more like a sci-fi/western than anything more high-fantasy, and it’s appealing and traditionally pictured. A single attribute cannot save an entire movie, though, so the setting had some familiarity but didn’t do much on its own, which was made worse by lacklustre worldbuilding.
Directly suffering from the lack of worldbuilding is the main character Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) and his eventual companion Viola (Daisy Ridley). There’s some explanation of how there are no women and what happened, which changes later in an unimpactful plot twist. And there are some other settlements described as well, progressing the whole colonial idea mentioned earlier. All these things, however, are just to push along the plot. Having a fair enough budget to hire Holland, Mikkelsen, Ridley, along with some other quite well-known names, would make you think it’d be pretty good, and the acting is indeed, for the most part. What was a bit obvious to me, though, was the fact that due to ‘’Chaos Walking’’ being one of few films Ridley has been in since her ‘’Star Wars’’ success, her acting is not up to par with the rest. There are glances of genuine talent, but she seems to flounder in smaller productions like other actors who have broken through with the help of high budget blockbusters.
With the lack of depth being so apparent, it isn’t embellished enough to make anything work in cohesion. Even something like the soundtrack, which would fit exceptionally well in any such film, cannot lift the movie to greater heights. If there wasn’t as much delay in production and perhaps a higher budget, it could’ve been the next big fantasy film success, but in this case, you’d probably be better off reading the novels instead.