Chaos Walking: Film Review

Chaos Walking

The response to Chaos Walking has been overwhelming negative and the Rotten Tomatoes score isn’t great, so I went in with super low expectations and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, it definitely doesn’t live up to its potential, but it’s not as terrible as I’d been led to believe.

This dystopian adventure, based on The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, is set in 2257 on New World, an alien planet which has been colonised by humans. The main action takes place in Prentisstown, which is only inhabited by men – the women got killed by the natives – and they all have ‘the Noise’, meaning their thoughts are broadcast for all to hear, so they can have no secrets, although some can control or hide their Noise better than others. One day, Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) comes across Viola (Daisy Ridley) – the first female he’s ever seen in real life – after her spaceship crashes down on New World. He helps her escape Prentisstown, run by the cunning mayor David Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), and find a way to contact another ship.

I loved the concept – it is such a terrific idea ripe with potential – and enjoyed discovering this new world and watching them venturing into new terrain and getting to know each other and become friends. There are plenty of great ideas in here – particularly about how the indigenous people are perceived – but they are poorly executed, and the characters are generic and aren’t well developed so it was hard to care about them (I genuinely cared more about the dog Manchee). The action sequences were a bit confusing to watch sometimes, they felt rushed and not properly thought through. I also thought the screenplay by Ness and Christopher Ford also needed work. I felt like Todd’s Noise at the beginning was used for a lot of exposition which didn’t feel realistic – would somebody really think those things? – and some of the emotional beats didn’t always work.

I really like Holland, I think he’s a talented actor who has this cute nerdy charm and that works perfectly well here. He has a captivating onscreen presence as the naive and sheltered Todd who is finally having his eyes opened to the lies he’s been told. Ridley didn’t offer up much more than we saw in Star Wars but they play off each other nicely and I liked the team they form, with Manchee (who is adorable) completing the trio. I didn’t like the clothes she wore either, those trousers looked super uncomfortable!

Mikkelsen was perfectly cast as the sly mayor, complete with an excellent fur coat, and I liked Cynthia Erivo as his opposite – the kind and considerate mayor of Farbranch – although she wasn’t in it as much as I would’ve liked. I can’t really comment on David Oyelowo‘s performance as the radical preacher Aaron because I didn’t understand the character at all, although he was convincing as a crazed madman. And I’m surprised Nick Jonas took the part of Prentiss’ son because it was so small and inconsequential.

Chaos Walking had so much potential. The ideas, the characters, and the setting are all ingredients for a solid action-packed adventure so it’s such a shame Doug Liman squandered it and didn’t deliver the goods. There’s still plenty to enjoy in here though so don’t write it off completely.

Available for premium rental at home on all digital platforms from Friday 2nd April

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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