On paper “Chaos Walking,” a new dystopian movie starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland and now on PVOD, seems like a can’t fail for sci fi fans. In execution, however, the story of a world where men’s thoughts are manifested for all to see, is a letdown.
Based on “The Knife of Never Letting Go,” the first book of the Patrick Ness “Chaos Walking” trilogy, the story takes place in the year 2557 in a place called Prentisstown on the planet New World. Colonized by refugees from Earth, New World’s original inhabitants, the Spackle, fought back, slaughtering many of the male settlers and all the women. The surviving men contracted something called “The Noise.”
“It happened when we landed on the planet,” says Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen). “Every thought in our heads is on display.”
Prentisstown residents, like Todd Hewitt (Holland), walk around with their thoughts exposed like wisps of multicolored cigarette smoke swirling around their heads.
When her spaceship crash lands on New World it leaves earth woman Viola (Ridley) stranded in this strange world. Todd, who has never seen a woman before, helps her navigate the dangers of her new home, as they both discover the deeply held secrets of New World.
“Chaos Walking” has ideas that feel ripe for satire, social commentary and drama but squanders them in favor of crafting a tepid young adult friendly dystopian story. Todd’s “Noise” reveals the kind of thoughts a teenager may have when first laying eyes on a girl, although in a g-rated fashion. His inner voice mumbles “Pretty” in Viola’s presence, but that’s about as deep into his psyche we get. It’s a shame because the “Noise” device could have been used to provide some much-needed humour into this earnest story. Or to more effectively drive the plot or the tension between the two characters. Instead, it is inert, a ploy to add some interest to a generic dystopian tale.
“Chaos Walking” was shot in 2017, deemed unreleasable, and has been fiddled with ever since. It hits PVOD as a film of unrealized potential, a minor footnote on the IMDB pages of its stars.