Based on the novel “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness, director Doug Liman brings the young adult novel CHAOS WALKING was released in cinemas several years late due to production problems. We’ll reveal in our review whether you can tell that the finished project was a mess.
OT: Chaos Walking (USA/CAN/HKG/LUX 2021)
In the near future, Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) finds the mysterious Viola (Daisy Ridley), who is stranded after a crash landing on the distant planet “New World”. In Todd’s hometown of Prentisstown, all women have been missing for many years since they were eliminated by a hostile alien race. Meanwhile, the male residents are under the influence of the mysterious “noise” – a strange force that makes all thoughts audible to everyone at any time. In this dangerous world, Viola’s life is in danger from the start, but Todd does everything he can to get her safely back to her spaceship. Together the two make their way through the dense forests of their village, always on the run from the leader of Prentisstown (Mads Mikkelsen) and his men. The two discover an incredible, dark truth and soon have to run for their lives…
Since the rise of social media, film fans all over the world have been able to directly participate in what is happening in Hollywood. Film studios, directors and actors happily share pictures and anecdotes from the set. An undeniable advantage for those who want to have the feeling of being very close to their idols, but which can also become a disadvantage if a production does not develop as planned. In recent years, information about filming difficulties has come to the public disproportionately often, which raises the question of whether we can actually speak of an accumulation of such events (in the past, a film was just finished when it was finished), or whether these days it’s just that noticed more about it. “Chaos Walking,” the screen adaptation of the novel “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by “Seven Minutes After Midnight” author Patrick Ness, is one of those films that made headlines in advance due to its slow-moving production process. Already in 2012 (!) there were reports that Charlie Kaufman (“I’m thinking of ending things”) should adapt the young adult fantasy novel; At a time when the young adult hype fueled by “The Hunger Games” and Co. was still in its infancy. Nine years, several changes of author and a change of director later – Robert Zemeckis was originally supposed to direct the film – it is over again. And “Chaos Walking” stands alone in its genre. Maybe an advantage, because oversaturation is a thing of the past. But perhaps also a disadvantage, because after all there is a reason for that and despite all the unfortunate omens, “Chaos Walking” is a very solid genre production, but it is only partially suitable for rekindling youth’s passion for fantasy films. Also because of its rather provocative cliffhanger.
Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) with his loyal dog Manchee.
In a very early, first phase of completion, “Chaos Walking” was shown to a selected audience. This test screening not only resulted in mercilessly bad feedback, but also massive reshoots, which is why filming, which was actually completed in November 2017, dragged on into 2019. The originally planned theatrical release in 2020 could not be met due to the corona pandemic, which meant that the film only had a limited release in cinemas in the USA and was released shortly afterwards on paid streaming platforms. The press feedback was largely miserable, although in recent years it has often been observed that films with difficult production histories tend to be more negative in public discourse; Only a few films such as “The Empty Man” can ultimately redeem themselves due to their actually very good quality. The empty man is now continuing its triumph as a horror insider tip in home cinema. Meanwhile, “Chaos Walking” benefits above all from the fact that it can be enjoyed in cinemas in this country. Because even if the futuristic world that “Edge of Tomorrow” director Doug Liman immerses us in here does not exude such a technology-obsessed sci-fi atmosphere as other entries from the genre and its reduced design is almost reminiscent of a medieval film , “Chaos Walking” still impresses on a simple level with its show values. Suddenly there is a huge, detailed spaceship lying in the middle of a forest area, which at first glance would be indistinguishable from a contemporary forest area and because of this it develops a visual impact that you don’t even have to witness the crash with the earth to understand the feel of this vehicle. “Chaos Walking” is generally more of a quiet film; An almost ironic observation given the premise. The idea of dystopia does not impose itself, but can be recognized primarily in small details. As is the fact that this film is set in the future at all. And yet, not even the aliens that only appear in a single scene feel out of place in this world.
“Even if the futuristic world that “Edge of Tomorrow” director Doug Liman immerses us in here does not exude such a technology-obsessed sci-fi atmosphere as other entries from the genre and its reduced design almost reminds us of the Middle Ages “Chaos Walking” is still convincing in a simple way because of its visual values.”
The use of CGI effects is kept within such narrow limits that when you think back to “Chaos Walking”, one no less subtle effect sticks in your mind: the “noise” illustrated in the form of a blue-violet cloud – that is, for everyone Bystanders can hear and see the thoughts of the men. The options for not only suppressing this noise, but also specifically influencing it – for example by sending (illusory) images to those around you in the form of visualizations – which are formulated in much more detail in the book, unfortunately seem a little arbitrary in the film. In general, this unique selling point is not given as much consideration as it would have been possible in an otherwise largely conventional young adult genre adventure. The numerous possibilities, which greatly fuel the hostile mood among men, of influencing other people through audible thoughts, of not being able to keep secrets to oneself or even of using them against one another, are only touched upon. The script, which now lists six different authors, is primarily devoted to this detail in the interaction between Todd and Viola; a kind of “what men want” in a sci-fi setting, so to speak, from which the makers primarily derive the (charming) entertainment value from the fact that the young man has never seen a woman before and, of course, completely chaotic thoughts to the outside world carries. At this point, “Chaos Walking” reveals its potential to be a coming-of-age film with the “men’s thoughts are audible to everyone” premise. In a sci-fi adventure like this one, however, their potential remains largely unused.
Viola (Daisy Ridley) and Todd are on the run through the woods.
This is not least because the good versus evil fight between the two young people and the strong Mads Mikkelsen (“The Rush”) led villagers never reached its greatest possible intensity. The narrative pattern becomes redundant over time: the film follows Todd and Viola, after a few minutes we see that the men are hot on their heels, there is a brief encounter in which the inclusion of noise finally really comes into its own and after a successful escape, this process is repeated until the finale. Unfortunately, the confrontations remain too rare overall to explore all the (evil) possibilities of the noise. So it happens that “Chaos Walking” could even do without one (or at times even two) classic villains. The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the women from New World is not nearly as surprising as it is portrayed in the film; Even the novel doesn’t prepare the resolution like that twistlike before how it sells the screen version. Nevertheless, the reason for this changed direction is obvious: in the course of the film adaptation, the original “The Knife of Never Legging Go” was boiled down, which prevents the gradual scattering of clues about the actual reason for the women’s disappearance. What is convincing, on the other hand, is the justification itself, which allows the potential that “Chaos Walking” sometimes even has as a socially critical commentary to shine through. It’s a shame that Doug Liman and Co. don’t know how to exploit this added value either.
“In the course of the film adaptation, the original “The Knife of Never Legging Go” was boiled down, which prevented the gradual scattering of clues about the actual reason for the women’s disappearance.”
Meanwhile, “Chaos Walking” is supported not only by the fascinating, minimalist world building, but also by the lead duo. Tom Holland (“Spider-Man: Far from Home”) portrays the young man, whose sincerity seems out of place in this hostile world, with a mixture of uncertainty and hope as he believes he has found a silver lining in Viola. Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker”) is the exact opposite in comparison. She is tough, doesn’t let her insecurity show in this strange world and never fulfills the cliche character Damsel in distress, but can defend itself only too well against attackers. The two of them give “Chaos Walking” its heart and soul and also ensure that you definitely want to see more of them – as well as of the world. Even if the intrusive cliffhanger, the resolution of which is hardly to be expected given the film’s lack of success, almost makes you feel guilty about having once again fallen for this script trick that deliberately arouses curiosity.
Conclusion: The difficult production conditions are not noticeable in Doug Liman’s latest directorial work. Even if his adaptation of the dystopian novel “Chaos Walking” feels like it comes a little too late, as the young adult hype has long since died down and the cliffhanger therefore seems unwise, the sci-fi adventure impresses with a strong duo of lead actors , a fascinating world and a nasty villain.
“Chaos Walking” can be seen in USA cinemas from June 17th.