Director Doug Liman has the misfortune of being labeled the close-but-no-cigar guy in my head. He’s the kickstarter of franchises. The first instalment guy who then has to watch how others improve on the groundwork he’s done. The man who delivers serviceable entertainment that’s too fleeting to make a lasting impression. His new film ‘Chaos Walking’ fits that description all too well.
Mankind has taken to the stars and colonisation of new hospitable planets proves to be a challenge for the first settlers. Todd (Tom Holland) was born in The New World. A world where all the men are affected by the noise. A cloud of lilac coloured mist that projects their thoughts aloud for everyone to see and hear. It’s a phenomenon that doesn’t affect women, but Todd wouldn’t know, he’s never seen one. All females were slaughtered by the spackle, an indigenous species. When Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash-lands on the planet from her scouting ship, she finds herself the target of Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen) who has more to hide than the noise might betray.
The set-up is interesting, there’s no doubt about that. To have your thoughts on display without any kind of filter would definitely create a rift between people and put added stress on any new formed society. But after the novelty wears off, all that’s left is a very basic run and hide movie. The kind you’ve seen a million times before, and better. The noise reduced to nothing more than a gimmick.
Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland are both committed and throw themselves wholeheartedly into this sci-fi adventure, but they’re an odd pairing. Their chemistry isn’t quite firing on all cilinders. There are a few comedic moments where Todd’s thoughts reveal his budding feelings for her, but that kind of sudden levity feels strangely out of place in a film that’s quite rough around the edges.
None of the characters have any kind of arc to speak of. They exist because the plot needs them to, which makes their actions and behaviour seem irrational at times. Mikkelsen and especially David Oyelowo try to make the best out of their very thinly sketched personas but ultimately have nothing substantial to work with. Liman keeps the pace going while the charm of Holland and Ridley gets us through a fairly dry, run of the mill adventure.
Chaos Walking is a serviceable sci-fi adventure, but one that definitely should’ve gestated a bit longer to reach its full potential.
Review – Chaos Walking
Reviewed online, April 3, 2021. Rating: M. Running time: 109 min.
PRODUCTION: (USA) A Lionsgate release of a 3 Arts Entertainment, BRON Creative, Creative Wealth Media Finance, Quadrant Pictures production. Producers: Doug Davison, Allison Shearmur, Erwin Stoff, Alison Winter. Executive producers: Ray Angelic, Iron Chen, Jason Cloth, Erik Feig, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis.
CREW: Director: Doug Liman. Writers: Patrick Ness, Christopher Ford (based upon the book “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness). Cinematography: Ben Seresin. Editing: Doc Crotzer. Music: Marco Beltrami, Brandon Roberts.
CAST: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Demián Bichir, David Oyelowo, Kurt Sutter, Cynthia Erivo, Bethany Anne Lind, Mads Mikkelsen, Nick Jonas, Ray McKinnon.