By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
With a slew of false starts, production and creative problems, reshoots, rewrites, and retooling, it is a wonder that this film is finally seeing the light of day. Based on the book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Chaos Walking is a messy film whose production and creative woes are all too evident. Though the story has a rather clever premise and an oddly compelling plot, the rushed pacing and poor story and character development derails what could have been a remarkable and amazing science fiction thriller. To its benefit, the movie has a great cast that includes Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, and Mads Mikkelsen. However, these talented actors and the story’s wildly creative ideas deserve a much better cinematic treatment.
The story takes place in the near future. Due to what is merely hinted at as unbearable living conditions on Earth, humanity has sought out to colonize another inhabitable planet where conditions will be initially crude, but still livable. The film begins after humans have already begun colonization on an earth-like planet. Thought life is currently bearable, the colonists have endured many hardships, particularly the tragic loss of most of the women at the hands of the creatures indigenous to the land. As for the remaining males, all of them are afflicted by a bizarre phenomenon known as “The Noise,” a condition that reveals all of their thoughts out in the open.
The film’s protagonist Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) may have lost his parents, but has managed to survive under the care of his foster fathers Ben Moore (Demian Bichir) and Cillian Boyd (Kurt Sutter). Though Todd’s fathers prefer a quiet and simple life, Todd ambitiously dreams of more excitement and power. Well, things get more exciting for Todd when he discovers that more colonists are planning to arrive soon. This is indicated when Viola Eade (Daisy Ridley) crash lands on the planet. Intrigued with Viola, Todd hopes to help her accomplish her goals. However, the power hungry Mayor of Todd’s town, David Prentiss (Mikkelsen) has other plans for the new arrival.
Based on the fictional book series by Patrick Ness, screenwriters Ness, Christopher Ford (with other writers in the mix) and director Doug Liman (with some reshoots by Fede Alvarez), have obviously struggled to make this movie work. With so many cooks in the kitchen, it is no surprise that this movie has endured so many problems to get released. It is a wonder, however, that the studio has managed to finally finish the film and saved it from being completely shelved. That said; Chaos Walking is a clear case of opportunities and potential missed.
As clever a premise as it has and all of the naturally built-in humor it milks, the movie simply rushes through its inticrate story with nearly most of its ideas coming across as undercooked. The cast members give their performances with much earnestness, but their characters suffer from the lack of proper development they deserve. Liman (and presumably Alvarez) do succeed in keeping the gravity of things moderately engaging and compelling at times, but in the end, the final product never, ever, sticks the landing.
Chaos Walking is still getting a theatrical release, but the distributors should have aimed for a streaming or VOD release instead. It is a movie I honestly cannot recommend. While it isn’t entirely a horrible, tiresome experience, the whole movie eventually stalls out in the end.