Chaos Walking’s chaotic journey to the big screen is finally over. The new dystopian thriller, directed by Doug Liman, was shot in 2017, but required reshoots, which caused release delays. Typically, though sometimes undeservedly, that’s a sign of trouble. It was finally set to release, but the pandemic caused the movie – like most others – to shift its release date. Is the movie as bad as anticipated, given its tumultuous road to screens? Not really, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good either.
The problem with movies getting rightfully delayed during a public health crisis is there is no clear-cut right time to release them. A movie like Chaos Walking comes with a hefty price tag, but putting it in theaters now, when many are still shuttered, guarantees it has no chance (if it ever did) of making any kind of returns. While watching the new movie, its bland and familiar dystopian themes come with a sense of it being an afterthought, which never makes for an engaging watch.
The movie follows Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland), who lives on a planet where there are no women. The people who populate the not-too-distant-future world walk around with a blue light surrounding their heads. This is called the Noise, which allows others to hear what people are thinking. In an environment without women, things are shaken up when the mysterious Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash lands on their planet and becomes the target of the bad guys (led by Mads Mikkelsen).
Chaos Walking is a bit bumpy in its visual style, which should be the hook of seeing something of its kind. Some scenes have the obvious green screen look, while other individual set pieces provide momentary thrills. The uneven balance in look creates even more of a disconnect from the thinly plotted movie.
While most of Chaos Walking plays like a game of YA dystopian Bingo, the movie really doesn’t have enough meat in its story surrounding the Noise or Viola’s appearance on Todd’s planet. They feel like plot points in an attempt to bring a new angle to crowded genre but never like a fully realized story. Movies like Chaos Walking seem to be chasing the success of The Hunger Game series, but often fail to ignite the same passion those films did. Chaos Walking is another movie to loom in Katniss’ shadow.
The movie is based on the book “The Knife of Never Letting Go,” by Patrick Ness, who co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Ford. As it goes, the finale suggests there is more to come (Ness wrote three books in this series), but Chaos Walking is bound to escape audiences and never justify seeing anymore of this world. It doesn’t help Holland has gone on to become Spider-Man and Ridley just concluded being a Skywalker. They’ve moved on and by the time the end credits roll, so will you.