Chaos Walking is 109 minutes of wasted potential.
The sales pitch: Mankind has found a new life-sustaining planet and colonizes it – New World, 2257 AD. In Prentisstown, a teenager named Todd Hewitt lives in a womanless world where men’s thoughts are broadcasted into a swirl of colors and images around their heads called “noise”.
Apparently, mansplaining isn’t enough. In fairness, Chaos Walking promises a high-concept neo-western sci-fi that we all need to take a break from superheroes and comic-book worlds. So what’s it like in the life of Todd Hewitt?
Nothing much it turns out. He’s living a hormonal teenager’s nightmare – cursed to live on a beet farm with nothing to eat but beets and nothing to do but repeat his name to control his noise. In this world, hiding your noise is a weakness, but letting it go unfiltered is the easiest way to get killed.
Well, there’s the fittingly cast Mads Mikkelsen as the charismatic Mayor and David Oyewolo as the demented self-righteous priest on horseback, but they aren’t allowed to go beyond their archetypal roles because of a half-baked script.
Novel-to-movie adaptions will inevitably be condensed. The main problem is this adaptation is afraid of its own source material. When a woman finally arrives to disrupt the tightly held status quo, the story becomes an ultra-bland hero journey with a dull plot and stagnant characters.
A female astronaut crash-lands in the New World near Prentisstown. The sausage town is shook. The priest demands death. The mayor holds them off, but everyone knows where this is going. Todd, now that he has an option not to die a virgin, helps her escape.
This journey is mainly composed of a hormonal teenager trying and failing to control his horny thoughts about the first girl he has ever seen while they trek to another colony – Farbranch. Meanwhile, the Mayor and his pack are on their heels with vapor trails of their noise signaling their arrival.
The confrontation isn’t much either. Somehow Todd manages to conjure images that he hasn’t even seen to stir the deeply hidden guilt of the Mayor, weaken his resolve and get revenge (albeit indirectly because you know he isn’t the one to deliver the *SPOILERS* killing blow). Mikkelsen can add layers into his character by acting alone, another reminder of how much talent is wasted in this movie.
In the end, Chaos Walking is a snoozy YA yarn, another failed attempt by Tom Holland to expand his career out of MCU (nothing against the guy), and a capable Daisy Ridley becoming typecasted as an orphaned space girl.
Chaos Walking is a garden-variety YA movie with an ultra-bland hero journey, stripped off of any nuance to deliver a safe blockbuster film.