Since its publication, Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy was considered one of the most curious stories in science fiction published in the last decade. With its inevitable “young adult” label, it also claimed to attract the attention of big Hollywood production companies.
After the success of franchises like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games , the industry is in search of the next great saga. And Ness’s work, with its good use of dystopia and emotional conflict, seemed to be the ideal candidate for it .
In 2021, the series began its grand journey to massive success. Lionsgate bought the rights to Chaos Walking and hired Charlie Kaufman for the adaptation. The reason? The play had a strong introspective ingredient, based on the inner transit of its characters, something in which Kaufman is a specialist.
The story of Ness is based on a future in which thoughts can be heard, in a constant stream of images and sounds called simply “Noise.” Speculation about something similar (in addition, in a violent setting), seemed an ideal formula for the screenwriter to create a strange narrative landscape.
But, whether it was because Kaufman was unable to translate something similar to the screen or that simple insightful screenwriter, he left the project six months later. The project then began a long checkered journey of postponements, producer changes, two new screenwriters, and finally a half-hearted director. Doug Liman started filming in 2017 and from the first months, the production went through all kinds of creative snags and obstacles. In the end, the conflict around the set seems to have affected the final result . Chaos Walking is a clumsy, ineffective and confusing combination of what could be something much better and deeper.
‘Chaos Walking’, a chaos without feet or head
As his trailer recounted months ago , the premise of thoughts turned into “white noise” has remained intact since the book, but Liman seems unable to capitalize on it. Neither does the massive female genocide that is insinuated and that by necessity should give a concrete cultural touch to the narrative. Instead, the story is surprising in its inability to be anything other than a parade of stunning visual effects, meaningless. Of course, it is even understandable after the story passed by no less than six writers.
From Kaufman with the script rewriting, including Jamie Linden, Patrick Ness himself, Lindsey Beer, Gary Spinelli to John Lee Hancock. In the end, the plot is a narrative chaos from its first sequences . And the need to put the pieces together in something understandable is notorious, without Liman achieving it or having an inspired moment in the middle of the disorder. Chaos Walking is just a combination of situations and scenes that together, do not seem to have the slightest objective.
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Of course, in a story where an endless interior monologue is carried over into the visual realm, special effects are everything. Or at least, its neatness would be a prerequisite for the way the story is sustained. But Chaos Walking crosses an artificial stage, the result of a battery of ineffective special effects.
It is inevitable to wonder where the astronomical investment of 125 million dollars is located. From the lackluster look of the setting, to the way it expresses the overall idea of “material” thinking, Chaos Walking has an incomplete and hazy appearance. The premise that was able to show the world of its characters in a unique way, ends up being a confusion of colors in the middle of a poor design.
Tom Holland in his worst performance
The post-apocalyptic scenario presents Todd (a tedious Tom Holland) who must face the most inexplicable situation. Not only are his teenage thoughts visible and can be heard by anyone, but there are no women around him. The combination creates a culture in which masculinity is about demonstrating individual power .
But not through fighting or competition, but in a misty middle ground between assertiveness and something more basic. A fuzzy attribute that the script fails to determine. What is virility in the middle of a devastated world? History does not show it.
In fact, for the tedious first hour, Chaos Walking seems more interested in following Todd without the action seeming to lead anywhere. In addition, the script poses this uncomfortable hero, as one who seeks the reason for his need for silence. Liman, who takes references to several of his films with characters who confront the system as best they can, holds Holland’s character from bewilderment.
Todd bears an inevitable resemblance to Jason Bourne from The Bourne Identity or Tom Cruise’s William Cage from Edge of Tomorrow . And without a doubt, the director takes a bit of his best-known films, to create the feeling of inevitable destiny. Like Jason and Cage, Todd must find a way to overcome this New World, set in a distant, retro-futuristic and violent 2257 AD.
But in this society of men nothing seems to work as it should . From Todd’s parents, Ben (Demián Bichir) and Cillian (Kurt Sutter), to Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), the survivors struggle with hopelessness. The virile is also a risk. Especially when the lack of women makes the demonstration of such an attribute meaningless. In fact, it has more to do with controlling “noise” (or the need for silence) in the midst of a society without secrets. In several of its most successful moments, the script uses the idea as a bridge between situations. But the ambition to tell dozens of situations at once implodes the film from its plot core.
The inevitable cliches
All of the above seems to get even more complicated (if possible) in Chaos Walking when a ship? Space ship? crashes in New World. The only survivor? Viola (a Daisy Ridley who repeats her role as Rey line by line), whom Todd must rescue to avoid being killed. Suddenly the movie is at its most confusing. Nobody can explain why a male society wants to kill the only woman (and therefore hope for reproduction). Or the reason why everyone mobilizes in search of attacking Todd for the mere fact of wanting silence. Even something as simple as hiding that her teenage hormones explode like fireworks around her.
Viola and Todd’s escape then becomes the focus of the film. And Liman, as in several of his previous productions, is dedicated to following them with considerable creative tedium. What little interest the story could have generated collapses and becomes something more absurd, strange and meaningless. As if it were a chaotic line in which they try to merge a dozen different themes .
In the end, with its strange air of unintentional parody of movies like I’m Legend and Children of Men , Chaos Walking is as unclassifiable as it is boring. Perhaps what is most disconcerting in a film that plays with amazement and a supposed provocation as the main asset