Somewhere along the way to the big screen, pieces went missing
CHAOS WALKING (2021)
Trapped in development hell for years, Chaos Walking has finally surfaced. With so much mystery behind it, partially due to lacking advertisement, Chaos Walking leaned toward being entirely dead on arrival. Luckily for those enthusiastic about the end product, the final film isn’t the worst possible outcome, but it’s clear that somewhere along the way to the big screen, pieces went missing.
Up to this very year (2021), if someone was to say the name “Doug Liman,” my ears would perk up, and I would be eager to join the conversation. Sadly that feeling has lessened since the casualty that was Locked Down. It’s fair to say that Chaos Walking has been in the can for some time now, and whatever got Liman to create a film like Locked Down might’ve not gotten to him when he created Chaos Walking. From a direction standpoint, Chaos Walking is a terrific looking feature; there are plenty of scenes that work well enough on their own, but the way they’re presented through the editing is clearly scatterbrained.
“Control your noise,” is a phrase said time and time again throughout Chaos Walking, and I can’t help but wonder if the screenwriters were humoring themselves at times, knowing that the exorbitant noise would quickly become obnoxious. Based on a book series of three by Patrick Ness, the concept of Chaos Walking is intriguing but such an expansive idea needs a master class script to nail the execution. Patrick Ness co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Ford (Cop Car, Spider-Man: Homecoming), and as a person who hasn’t read his book series, I can’t say how faithfully this replicates what’s on the page... but hopefully this isn’t it. Sitting at an hour and forty-nine minutes, it might seem from afar like the appropriate length for a sci-fi story like this but truthfully it needed to be longer.
Chaos Walking is extremely choppy, the editing leaves a great deal to be desired, but most importantly there’s a ton of story/character arcs that never see their conclusion. One prime example is that we learn early on that the native beings of the planet they reside are called “Spackles” and they’re horrifying beings. The film talks a big game about these creatures, but we see one only once in the film and it’s all so very brief.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley lead Chaos Walking, and they provide the film with their absolute best effort. Ridley barely speaks for the first thirty minutes of the film, and Holland speaks too much due to “the noise.” “The noise” is a trait that all males acquire as soon as they enter this new planet’s atmosphere in which every man’s thoughts, dreams, memories, and ideas are on full display. All the women, as far as we know from the start of the film, have been eliminated by the natives of the land, leaving only men led by “the mayor” played by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen (SPOILER) is a mysterious foe to Ridley’s Viola, hiding his “noise” from the townsfolk and her. Mikkelson has been known for playing a menacing villain before and here he triumphs once again with what the script offers to him.
Along with the human performances, we are also fit with a cute little dog, Manchee. I feel as if I have the liberty to say that he doesn’t make it to the end of the film, so those with sensitive eyes when things happen involving animals might want to stray from this. The human cast here is loaded with Holland, Ridley, Mikkelsen, Nick Jonas, David Oyelowo, and Demián Bichir, so it’s a shame that so many of them don’t find a fitting conclusion to their stories. Oyelowo and Jonas most of all because as they are left in the story they are simply there to cause “chaos” and nothing else.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Director of Photography Ben Seresin is connected to plenty of heavy CGI films within his filmography (World War Z, Godzilla vs Kong), and Chaos Walking is yet another to add to the list. The visuals look sharp and the cinematography is gorgeous when it has the desire to be. There are certainly moments when the idea that this film is one of the only films being shown in IMAX as of its release leaves some questions. It looks good, but IMAX quality? The world they’ve created is mostly vegetative so the setting takes place usually within forests and farmland outside those perimeters. There are a few “spectacle” scenes, one where Holland and Ridley are forced to go into rapids that is a thrilling, unfortunately memorable scene, and there’s a dangerous climbing scene. While both look really good, they aren’t “wow” moments.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
If there’s one thing I love, it’s a spectacular score, and Chaos Walking has it. Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts handled the music in the film and have worked in some capacity on numerous other projects in the past, with Beltrami having the title of composer on films such as Logan, A Quiet Place, and Long Shot. The score is thrilling, tense, and everything you want in an action/sci-fi film, which is something that can’t be said too often in regards to the rest of the film.
Chaos Walking may have finally been released, but the complete picture surely isn’t ready thanks to insufferable editing choices that caused characters to come and go with no rightful conclusion to their introductions. What is such a tragedy about Chaos Walking is that within the final product, there’s a terrific idea and cast, it’s just the state of the execution that leaves the entire experience in shambles.
CHAOS WALKING - IN THEATERS AND IN IMAX ON MARCH 5TH