Directed By Doug Liman
Starring – Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelsen
The Plot – In the not-too-distant future, Todd Hewitt (Holland) discovers Viola (Ridley), a mysterious girl who crash lands on his planet, where all the women have disappeared and the men are afflicted by “the Noise”, a force that puts all their thoughts on display. In this dangerous landscape, Viola’s life is threatened, and as Todd vows to protect her, he will have to discover his own inner power and unlock the planet’s dark secrets.
Rated PG-13 for violence and adult language
– Endless talent. Even with the limitations in one-dimensional characterization, which I will detail later, the abundance of star-studded A-listers can’t be oversold enough on the impact each of them have to this feature film. Aside from the trio of Holland, Ridley, and Mikkelsen, who have each rode a wave of mainstream success over the past decade, there’s appearances from Cynthia Erivo, Joe Jonas, Demian Bichir, and even David Oyelowo portraying the most morally diverse character of his experimental career. Each of them offer enough star power to keep you invested in these dream team dynamics, but as an ensemble they grant key prestige to a trilogy of novels with a fine compromise of scale and resounding impact, making this especially ambitious for a young adult genre that has attained a negative reputation for underwhelming casting choices as of late.
– Meticulously dispersed. This is in regards to the special effects, which are limited in use, but believable in articulation, nonetheless. The key dissection here is influence, which Liman does preserve in our imagination in the paranormal visuals we’re seeing taking shape, especially those of the noise itself, which trails its creator like these ghosts of truth escaping their bodies to be spread amongst the world. I greatly appreciated the key use of color in each dispersion, especially between the respective sides in protagonist and antagonist, which use a certain envious color to envelope the lack of truth in each delivery. In addition to these, there are a few artificial animals in the film that managed to reside without much obviousness in outline, despite the level of movements and physicality that the film demands from them. It helps that their color designs and elements of natural lighting maintain a consistency in the realm of the environment they are reflecting, all the while slipping into an on-site series of shooting locations that refuse to ever be drowned out by the minority of artificiality on screen.
– Thrillingly rampant. Without question, the best element of production for me, and one that proves Liman is still a pioneer behind the lens, are these intense action set pieces that really captivate without compromising. Due to a variety of geographic setting and varied circumstances, Doug is able to lend the movements of his sequences to this very immersive level of influence that puts the audience right in the heart of the engagement with regards to proximity and handheld scheme. These two perks are usually a checklist for catastrophic photography that distorts and condenses what we are seeing before us, but somehow uniquely Liman maintains a grasp on his scope that makes it easy to detect what’s taking shape before us, all the while refusing to omit even an ounce of urgency and vulnerability that are the two key ingredients to strong set pieces.
– Distinct setting. The key to any appealing science fiction movie is a hearty element of world-building fantasy that breeds optimism in the uncertainty of a future, and “Chaos Walking” has this by the dozen. Blessed with some uniquely interesting firearms in the arsenal, as well as some original measures within its gimmick, the script is wise enough to make this setting feel easily attainable despite the fact that it’s more than 250 years in the future. It satisfies but also leaves enough meat on the bone to intrigue audiences to want to learn more, and as far as Young Adult settings go, I appreciated that this land was anything but a depleted shell of its former self. Stacked finally with some impressive interior designs during interior ship sequences, and you have a film that values its science fiction in every penny of the more than one hundred million dollar budget that is a rarity at this particular place in time with the film and real world simultaneously.
– Messy screenplay. Saying that this is a difficult film to stay invested in is putting it lightly, So instead, I will elaborate that the majority of mistakes that its convoluted and often times disjointed execution makes revolves around flawed sequencing that can never put two cohesively moving scenes together in storytelling to maintain momentum. Most, if not all of this can probably be attained to the various reshoots the film took on over the last four years, reaching the light of day with a Frankenstein outline of a figure that is the culmination of various drafts and edits that distorted the film’s identity long after its initial intentions. It leads to arduous pacing that takes what should be a briefly satisfying 103 minute final run time, and makes it feel like twice that, due to an abundance of dryly dull pockets that pop up immediately after a key scene of action impresses us temporarily. It grinds to a finish line that couldn’t come fast enough, and one that is made all the more aimless by a final scene that could somehow be a resolution for the series, but also a teaser for the sequel that will never see the light of day.
– Weak characterization. Withhold Holland’s character from this conversation, and you have an entirety of characters without an arc or depth between them. Most of it deals in the one-dimensional rendering that each of them receive. This is to the fault of Liman, who never fully engages in the characters whom we’re often told are such a big deal, but then never shown why in the execution. Such an example persists in Ridley, who is the primary focus in plot, yet someone who I can’t explain three various things that I learned about her throughout the film. Mikkelsen’s antagonist is equally disappointing, illustrating a bad man who is bad because the script requires him to be, and that’s the problem. Such little time and influence went into making any of them compelling for the audience that follows, and what we’re treated to as a result is an expanding void that makes it difficult to invest in anything or more importantly anyone who we’re asked to spend nearly two hours with.
– Predictably bland. There are supposed twists scattered throughout this lukewarm screenplay, but nothing that ever remotely evolved from the straight and narrow line that I expected this movie to head. The blame stems from seeing so many of these subgenre films that can’t ever deconstruct or deter from a series of tropes and cliches that has many of them rubbing together. Such a future feels inevitable for “Chaos Walking”, especially considering there are many instances of intrigue scattered throughout the film, to which the movie never follows through on. Such an example is in a group of native people, whose livelihood alone in this particular world is fascinating enough, but itself settles for the same lack of attention that many of the essential characters receive constantly, leading to a series of missed opportunities in a franchise that would rather embrace the tired, and ditch the inspired for what makes it unique.
– Gimmick flaws. I won’t even begin to ask the question how this is possible, since the best the film can come up with is “Because”, so instead I will dissect what about hearing men’s thoughts simply doesn’t work in this context. For one, the thoughts themselves are too scattered and even convenient to feel natural. Thoughts are merely just reflections of a feeling or an experience, so even something like walking down the stairs should exude itself in our minds the moment we see stairs. Because of this, thoughts themselves in the characters should feel more spontaneous, and even a bit conjoined, considering so much happens to them at any particular moment, yet we’re only hearing this gimmick during moments of silence from everyone else. On top of this, the gimmick is simply just a tool of convenience for wet towel exposition that consistently holds the hand of the audience it has no faith in. Using this to give backstory on the setting is fine, even if its inception lacks any semblance of authenticity, but to use this consistently towards elaborating at a particular quote or instance in the film we’ve already experienced feels lazy at best, and makes me wish I slept through the first act if I knew it would just be repeated in its entirety later on.
– Agitating sound. If a film can’t even do the most simple and important thing right, does anything else even matter? This fault comes from frustrating sound mixing with no shortage of problems due to its uninspiring finished product, which baffles me how anyone thought this was acceptable. In addition to the volume of the audible dialogue from the noise sounding like incessant mumbling from Rain Man, this unnecessary echoing from within distorts even the most technologically equipped sound system in any theater, making this a forced chore each time it pops up. This is especially problematic considering much of the movie’s exposition is delivered in such a convenience, making it pivotal to hang on every word to serve a greater purpose along the way. For the love of Tenet, would it have been so difficult to render the audio a bit more coherence before delivery?
– One big inconsistency. We’re not often given such a blatant and obvious example of reshoots between years in the visual capacity, but when you cast two youthful actors with full-fledged physicality in their respective filmographies, you get treated to these rare perks that are unintentionally hilarious. Take Tom Holland, who goes from being a noodle-armed, flat-top adolescent to a hunky, curly-haired action star before our very eyes. The scenes themselves are rare in abundance, but if you’re paying close attention to the third act, you can spot a maturity in Holland and even Ridley that doesn’t line up in the continuity of the visuals between takes, speaking volumes to the stacked deck that was already working against the movie’s favor regardless of what year it was dropped in.
My Grade: 4/10 or D-