Chaos Walking review: Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley can’t save this sci-fi misfire

Chaos Walking filming starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley. Photo credit: Lionsgate.
Chaos Walking filming starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley. Photo credit: Lionsgate. /

Chaos Walking, the film adaptation of Patrick Ness’ best-selling YA novel, The Knife of Never Letting Go, has officially hit theaters. Doug Liman, who helmed the Bourne Identity, directs this sci-fi drama about life on a distant planet in a dystopian future.

Spider-Man star Tom Holland plays the film’s lead, a hormonal teenager named Todd Hewitt who is living on a planet called New World in the year 2257. Todd goes about his days playing with his dog and doing chores on his farm with his two dads in Prentisstown. This universe has made it hard for men to hide their thoughts, and they are enveloped with a special aura called “Noise” that radiates from their minds and broadcasts everything that pops into their heads to the rest of the community. Todd is able to manipulate his Noise into realistic-looking holograms and sounds that look like snakes or realistic 3D human beings.

According to community folklore, all the women in Todd’s world were killed by Spackle, a race of evil aliens. Women don’t have the same annoying Noise that men display when they are thinking.

Mayor David Prentiss (Mads  Mikkelsen) oversees everything that goes on in his village and even finds time to break up arguments between his son Davy Prenstiss Jr. (Nick Jonas) and Todd. The Mayor foreshadows his role as an antagonist by explaining that he has a cunning talent to hide his Noise and manipulate the minds of others.

Things get complicated when a spaceship full of colonizers crashes into the planet, leaving Viola (Daisy Ridley) as the lone survivor.

Todd is the first person to discover Viola, and he can’t hide his immediate fascination and attraction to the young woman. He has never seen a girl before, but he can’t control the desire that is racing through his mind. Todd tells the Mayor and his parents about his discovery, but he soon learns that it is too dangerous for Viola to stay in Prentisstown. The men are threatened by the presence of women because they don’t have any Noise.

David Oyelowo portrays Aaron, who everyone calls “Preacher.” He rides about on his horse with biblical quotes wrapped with flaming images circling around his head. Preacher likes to terrify Todd and scolds the Mayor about being weak as a woman because he learned how to hide his noise.

The film then becomes a road movie as Todd and Viola flee to Haven for safety, with Todd protecting Viola and a band of angry men chasing them across the country. The plot has many false starts as it tries to be an action story without anything interesting to drive the adventure. The $100 million dollar blockbuster was plagued with production problems. Oscar-winning screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, wrote an early draft of the script and is still credited. However, Chaos Walking started production in 2017 but then delayed additional filming to 2019.

Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley are now known worldwide for their roles as Spider-Man and Rey in the Star Wars franchise, respectively. But even their combined star power can’t save this weak premise. Doug Liman tries to do cool special-effects tricks with the concept of Noise, but it is not enough to sustain any suspense.

Patrick Ness, who co-wrote the screenplay, explained during the promotion of the movie that it’s centered on Todd becoming a man. Unfortunately,  the film is so boring that it’s difficult to really care. The final act that was shot almost two years later is so underdeveloped that we are not invested enough to feel any chemistry between the lead characters. Cynthia Erivo and Demian Bichir round out the cast, but their characters don’t do much to move the story.

The concept of Noise had potential, but we are not emotionally connected to Todd or Viola as they trudge along on their hero’s journey. Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley try their best to elevate the material. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything they could do to redeem Chaos Walking.

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Chaos Walking is currently playing in theaters.