Chaos Walking: A Promise of Disappointment


Ilana Rockwell, Entertainment Editor

“Chaos Walking”, released in theaters on March 5, has been largely considered a box-office flop, with a profit of roughly $13 million compared to its $100 million budget. With stars such as Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelsen, Nick Jonas and more, the film had a great deal of potential that ultimately fell flat.

Based on the book “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness, the story follows a young Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) in a town called Prentisstown on a strange planet. All men on the planet are affected with what is known as The Noise, in which their every thought is outwardly projected. Women, who are not affected, are effectively extinct on the planet, which Todd believes is due to the Spackle, a native alien species. Everything changes when Viola (Daisy Ridley) lands on the planet as the only survivor on a spaceship, and very obviously has no Noise. 

With an ambitious sci-fi trilogy to set up, the movie was able to follow through on their world-building fairly well. The Noise was executed convincingly, with computer-generated graphics and voice acting. Holland specifically was the shining star of this element, with emotions present in his thoughts that were hidden when he spoke out loud. In comparison, many other actors seemed to fall flat with dull and monotone thoughts that did not seem to add any depth to their actions. Ridley, not tasked with acting for the Noise, was unable to truly create a well-rounded and three-dimensional character. For such a pivotal character in the novel, not to mention the catalyst for the entire plot, Viola was under-characterized and it made it extremely difficult for audiences to connect to her. 

In relation to the plot, the highest compliment it can receive is that it was entertaining. Structurally, it was missing many elements that would have made it a greater success. The film, as mentioned previously, was very good at following through with the ideas and dynamics they introduced in the exposition. However, because of the world-building nature, it felt like the movie was consistently building towards a climax that never came, leaving audiences dissatisfied. It was clear that the movie was attempting to set up a sequel, as there are two more books in the series, but this attempted foresight caused the current movie to completely lack impact. Additionally, it felt at times like the screenwriters had too much on their plates and didn’t have enough time to address all of it. For example, the Spackle was never heard from again beyond the first half of the movie, even though they were assumed to be the greatest threat to the main characters from the beginning. 

With all of these in mind, there were some things that I believe the movie got right. Again, Holland’s acting helped to sell the premise of the Noise in its entirety and gave audiences at least one protagonist to root for. However, his choice to be casted at all was also a good one, as Todd in the book series starts at 13 years old. Although common in literature at the time to feature young teenagers in apocalyptic or dystopian narratives, staying true to that age would have made the story overly unbelievable. The young adult nature of Holland’s acting allows for the sense of naivety and innocence to remain, while also fueling his moments of anger and sadness with a sense of relatability with the age group the film is generally targeted towards. 

“Chaos Walking” is classified as a sci-fi adventure movie, and it does a good job of containing elements of both of these genres. The action scenes in the movie were generally well-done and always appeared to serve a purpose to the plot, as opposed to the pitfalls in many other high-budget films such as this one. It’s paired with phenomenally chosen music and a good balance of slow-paced and character-centric scenes that ultimately allow the action to pack an unexpected but not unwelcome emotional punch. Unfortunately, this well-oiled machine crumbled in the end when a “grand finale” action sequence seemed out of place and poorly thought out. 

Overall, while “Chaos Walking” was not unenjoyable in any sense, and was only improved by a compelling narrative brought to life by Holland’s acting and many adventure elements, its lack of viewership is not surprising. It seems unlikely that the series will continue, but if it does, here’s to hoping that they’re able to make a stand-alone impact without relying on the next film.