Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, David Oyelowo, Cynthia Erivo, Nick Jonas and Mads Mikkelsen
Run time: 1h 48min
“The noise is a man’s thoughts unfiltered and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”
Chaos Walking has been a long time coming. First announced in 2011 and with numerous script rewrites, production finally began in 2016. Poor test screenings meant reshoots were in order, Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley’s shooting schedule for Marvel and Star Wars respectively delayed them and then the Corona Virus pandemic hit resulting in the film finally being released 10 years after the original announcement. Not quite a walk, more of a casual stroll.
Doug Liman is on directing duties, bringing to life Patrick Ness’s acclaimed Young Adult series of books. Ness himself penned the screenplay alongside Christopher Ford. And it’s certainly a unique premise.
It’s 2257 AD and upon their arrival to a distant planet from Earth called New World, the human settlers encountered their first problem. The thoughts of all the males could be heard in a never-ending cacophony of sound and visualised via swirling, ethereal images projected from their minds. This becomes known as ‘The Noise’. If that wasn’t weird enough, the natives (an unusual race known as the Spackle) butchered all the female settlers in bloody retribution against their colonisation. I don’t think the reviews for New World on Trip Advisor will be particularly positive.
When Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash lands on New World, (she was seeking the mother ship that was carrying the second wave of settlers), her impact on the already damaged group causes more upheaval. Searching for a way to contact her colleagues and return to her base, she teams up with Todd (Tom Holland) and the pair embark on a perilous journey across the planet’s wilderness, relentlessly pursued by Prentiss, the town’s Mayor (Mads Mikkelsen). He needs to silence Viola to keep his dark secrets safe and will stop at nothing to do so.
Although it’s a fascinating idea and presented beautifully, Chaos Walking arrives lumbered with issues. ‘The Noise’ is occasionally difficult to understand. Perhaps that’s the point. The constant stream of thoughts inside one’s mind is relentless, but for storytelling purposes it’s too often an incoherent jumble. Some are more able to control their emotions than others, however, and this offers some needed comic relief. Young Todd, on the cusp of becoming a man and in adolescent awe at seeing a female for the first time, struggles to hide his feelings leading to many awkward moments and regularly leaving him at a disadvantage.
Questions are raised with many remaining unanswered. The history of mankind’s evolution and the reasons for their journey into a galaxy far, far way are barely touched upon. Characters (human and non-human) are introduced and then never seen again with lots of interesting themes never fully explored. Director of Photography Ben Seresin creates a visually pleasing dystopian future, albeit a rather small one. Most of the disappointingly few action sequences take place in the same area, leaving much of New World’s landscape to our imagination.
On the back of Cherry, it’s another strong performance from Tom Holland although the self-conscious social ineptitude of Peter Parker we’ve seen before is never far away. Daisy Ridley does her best with thin material whilst Mads Mikkelsen once again shows his star quality, but spends most of his time sitting on a horse. David Oyelowo‘s fire and brimstone preacher is perhaps the most intriguing character of all. Sadly, he’s too often in the background.
Worth watching for Holland and Ridley’s dynamic and on the surface the film’s enjoyable enough, but you’re constantly left wanting more. You get the impression that something’s coming, only it never arrives meaning Chaos Walking will forever feel like a missed opportunity.
Chaos Walking is available for premium rental at home on all digital platforms from 2ndApril.