Chaos Walking review: Chaotic execution mars a premise with much potential

Bryan Tan
·4-min read
Tom Holland (right) and Daisy Ridley in Chaos Walking. (Photo: Encore Films)
Tom Holland (right) and Daisy Ridley in Chaos Walking. (Photo: Encore Films)

Rating: PG-13
Length: 109 minutes
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelsen, Nick Jonas, David Oyelowo
Release date: 11 March 2020 (Singapore theatres)

Score: 2 out of 5 stars

Chaos arrives in the form of a woman, as Rey Skywalker finds herself suddenly plucked out from intergalactic warfare and deprived of the Force, landing messily in New World where Spiderman is eagerly awaiting, noisy spidey-sense tingling.

You might think I’m confused, or knocked my head somewhere. No, I am not kidding and Chaos Walking is not a cross-over between Star Wars and Spider-Man: War Of The Hormones.

But it could’ve very well be one for director Doug Liman, who has helmed titles like Mr & Mrs Smith (2005) and Edge Of Tomorrow (2014). Bringing these huge young stars together and setting them on a godforsaken planet seems to be his ultimate goal of fan service for their legions of adoring teenagers, possibly also in hopes of cushioning the fall of the movie’s very flat and two-dimensional storyline.

Sadly, Chaos Walking walked off a cliff after its release in the US on 5 March, grossing only US$6 million against its US$100 million budget, resulting in a box-office bomb.

The film is based on author Patrick Ness’ dystopian novel The Knife Of Never Letting Go, the first book in his trilogy, Chaos Walking.

Imagine your darkest and deepest thoughts on display for everyone to see, with little or no control over what is being broadcast. It manifests itself in the misty form of sound, colour or even images.

That is what ‘Noise’ is, which Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) a post-pubescent teenager, grapples with in the very red-neck village of Prentisstown. Named after the self-styled mayor, David Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), it is full of angry, sweaty men whose thoughts create ‘Noise’, an incessant babbling of their thoughts on permanent broadcast without a filter.

Todd is raised by two adoptive fathers, Ben Moore (Demian Bichir) and Cilian Boyd (Kurt Sutter), and is bullied by the townsfolk and the mayor’s son Davy (Nick Jonas). The ever-present shadow of the local extremist preacher Aaron (David Oyelowo) hangs over all of them in the form of his thundering and fiery coloured ‘Noise’, spewing the atypical vocabulary of an angry fanatic.

Their peaceful Make-America-Great-Again red-neckery is rudely interrupted when Viola Eade (Daisy Ridley) crash lands in the vicinity from her spaceship, and sparks a wild manhunt among the excited bogans to find her and set her to making sandwiches in the kitchen.

You also need to understand that there has never been a woman seen before in Prentisstown, and the men’s toxic masculinities are starved for abuse. There is a darker history at play here, which you will eventually find out.

Naturally, Todd inadvertently finds her and his ‘Noise’ goes absolutely bonkers, molesting her with thoughts like, ‘long hair’, ‘yellow’, ‘pretty, very pretty’. He also realises that no thoughts emanate from her. For all very straight young men, the silence of a woman is incomprehensible and confusing.

Like the title suggests, there is walking; a lot of walking. And ‘Noise’. Todd tries to help the stranded Viola, walking her many kilometres to another town called Farbranch to find a means of communicating with her ship. All the while, his ‘Noise’ incessantly mutters sounds of unrepressed longing towards her and even projects an image of them kissing, to Viola’s utter disgust.

The ‘Noise’ concept is a fairly good one with much potential, if not already done before. There could have been much more opportunities to show off the use of the power and how it can properly controlled and used, which will unlikely be shown in sequels considering how the movie has tanked so badly.

Tom Holland delivers a convincing performance of a lusty lad (being one himself in real life) and provides much gratuitous fan service, flexing his muscles in a wife-beater for most of the movie. In one scene, he strips down to nothing in front of Daisy before plunging into a lake to fight a tentacle monster with a dagger.

Yet, fan service cannot possibly be a substitute for underdeveloped characters and clumsy execution of a premise that could have shown much potential. In the end, Chaos Walking leaves one walking away feeling unsatisfied and with a lot more questions than answers.

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