Adventure Chaos Walking

Review: ‘Chaos Walking’ is a YA Adaptation that Lives Up to Its Title (But Not in a Good Way)

April 20, 2021Ben MK

What if your every notion and desire was on display for all to see? For the men of the New World in Chaos Walking, that's not just a hypothetical question, it's an everyday reality. But when a woman named Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash lands on their distant planet, her unexpected arrival threatens to expose the dark secret that their society's leader, David (Mads Mikkelsen), has been hiding.

Set in the year 2257, the film follows Todd (Tom Holland), a young man who knows nothing of the Earth his ancestors — the New World's first colonists — left behind decades earlier. Born and raised on this alien world where every man's innermost thoughts are manifested in a swirling purple haze around their heads, all Todd knows is the truth that has been told to him — that his birth mother, along with the rest of the human women that originally settled here, died in a war with the planet's native species, creatures known as the Spackle. It's not until the impending approach of Earth's long-overdue second wave of colonists — an event precluded by the sudden appearance of Viola among them — that Todd begins to question the authenticity of that narrative.

Now on the run from David and his men, including David's son (Nick Jonas) and the vengeful preacher Aaron (David Oyelowo), Todd must keep Viola safe by getting her to another human settlement that he never knew existed, all while trying not to embarrass himself in front of his newfound crush by unwittingly revealing to her his hormone-driven musings. As per usual for such tales in the sci-fi fantasy genre, however, that of course proves easier said than done. And when David and his band of not-so-merry followers eventually catch up with them, it leads to a final showdown from which only one side shall emerge victorious.

Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) and adapted by Patrick Ness and Christopher Ford from Ness' own bestselling YA book trilogy (specifically, its first installment, The Knife of Never Letting Go), the result is clearly an attempt at building a new movie franchise around a couple of Hollywood's most prominent and up-and-coming actors. Yet, despite Holland and Ridley's respective successes in the Marvel and Star Wars universes, the two of them combined can't manage to make this particular universe any more compelling — nor any less awkward — than watching Peter Parker try to hit on Rey in his high school's cafeteria.

It's a shame, really, because otherwise the cast here is excellent, especially Mikkelsen, who singlehandedly steals every scene that he's in. In the end, though, Chaos Walking unfolds exactly as its title implies — as a jumble of half-formed ideas that ultimately amounts to little more than a foreshadowing of the story's next chapter.

Chaos Walking releases April 23rd, 2021 from eOne Films. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for violence and language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 49 min.

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