“The noise is a man’s thoughts unfiltered and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”
From director Doug Liman, Chaos Walking is based on the first of a trilogy of young adult science fiction books – 2008’s ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’, by Patrick Ness. Starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland, along with Mads Mikkelsen, Demián Bichir, Cynthia Erivo, Nick Jonas, and David Oyelowo, the screenplay was also written by Ness, along with Christopher Ford.
Chaos Walking follows young Todd Hewitt (Holland), a colonist on the “New World” in the year 2257. One of the downsides of arriving on this lush new planet was that all of the men’s thoughts can now be heard and visualised, either as a swirl of coloured smoke that forms around their heads or in a clearer more realistic representation. This is known as “Noise”, with some of the men proving more adept at controlling it than others, such as the Mayor of the settlement, Mayor Prentiss (Mikkelsen), who can hide his completely and then show elements of it at will. And then there’s Todd, whose entire thought process is there for all to see, saying his name repeatedly when trying to clear his mind of anything that might give away what he is really thinking.
Strangely though, there aren’t any women in the new settlement. Although it is soon revealed that a war between the colonists and the planets native inhabitants (creatures known as the Spackle) resulted in all of the women being killed. So when a girl named Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash lands on New World, her arrival causes considerable unease and uncertainty. A frightened Viola just wants to find a way of contacting the ship that she originally came from, while Mayor Prentiss feels that her presence threatens the dark secret he has been carrying. Todd vows to help Viola and the pair set off on a dangerous journey across the planet to find a working communication device, while pursued by a fur coat wearing Prentiss and his associates.
Chaos Walking has been a long time coming. Initially announced in 2011, it underwent a number of rewrites from the initial first script draft that was written by Charlie Kaufman. Principal photography eventually began in 2017, with a release date set for March 2019. However, following poor test screenings, the release of the film was put on hold to allow for reshoots, which then needed to try and accommodate the busy Marvel/Star Wars schedules of its two leads! And then Covid managed to throw a further spanner in the works, as it has done with so many things this last year. To say that Chaos Walking has had a difficult journey to the screen would be an understatement.
To be fair though, Chaos Walking isn’t quite the hot mess that many will have you believe. However, it does take a while to get up and running. The Noise is one of those fascinating ideas which I can imagine working extremely well within the confines of a detailed novel but it struggles to find its feet in movie form. Difficult to understand at times, and when many male characters are on screen at the same time, as they are for much of the movie early on, it’s all extremely annoying. But then maybe that’s the point? And, as loveable as Tom Holland is, hearing him repeatedly say “I’m Todd Hewitt, I’m Todd Hewitt, I’m Todd Hewitt” over and over again, along with all of his other random thoughts and feelings (especially towards Viola, who he takes a liking to), does begin to wear a little thin after a while.
But then things settle down into something a lot more watchable and a little more enjoyable at times as Todd and Viola set out on their adventure, learning to appreciate and understand each other more along the way. However, those script rewrites are noticeable, along with the other problems that plagued production. Questions and ideas surrounding the Spackle, the history surrounding the human race and their journey to the New World, all are glossed over and never really fully tackled. It’s just a shame that such an interesting concept, and with the impressive lineup of talent involved, failed to produce something other than average.
Chaos Walking is available for premium rental at home on all digital platforms from 2nd April
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