Released: 4th March
Seen: 4th March
So Hollywood is kind of realising that relying on $100 million dollar films to turn an even bigger profit is an unsustainable business model right now. Thanks to the plague that everywhere but America is taking seriously right now, no one wants to go to cinemas at the moment which means that giant budget films are losing large amounts of money.
To be honest, giant budget films have been losing money for a long time before the plague but now it’s every single film with a budget of over 50 million is basically a write-off. So, when a film comes out that had no positive buzz based on a book that, be honest, you never read… oh, oh this is another part of the chaos that is the recent release schedule.
Chaos Walking, based on the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy (so, adorably, they probably think this is getting sequels) has a general concept that can be summed up as “What Men Want but if it was an apocalypse”. Every man’s thoughts can be heard by everyone, a phenomenon known as ‘The Noise’ and we start in a colony of men, no women because… well, they say “Because the natives did a genocide” but anyone who can think for a few seconds knows what’s going to be revealed later on.
Anyway, one day a character named Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) happens to find a girl named Viola (Daisy Ridley) who landed on this new planet and needs help to find a way to contact her ship so she’s not left on this planet full of very bland but generically attractive men who all wish to do a bad thing to her, except Todd who just thinks she’s pretty. Along with their adorable dog (who totally won’t die before the end of the movie in a cheap attempt to make a bad character appear more evil than he already is), the two of them have to travel over rough generic terrain to find a communicator and the audience joins them on the quest to give a damn.
Here’s the sad thing about Chaos Walking, it has elements that are good. The actors? Genuinely good and have enough charm that you can tolerate them for the few hours we’re asked to spend with them. The visuals? It’s pretty, I like how the concept of ‘noise’ looks and they made those generic forests they shot the film in look nice. The action? I mean, they hired Star Wars and Marvel people to do fighting scenes so yeah, they’re fine. If you were to tear this film up and strip it for parts, you have some half-decent ideas here to work with… the problem is that when jammed together it doesn’t work and the holes make themselves obvious.
For example, while the actors are genuinely charming and have good chemistry (Daisy and Tom really do bounce off each other quite well), they don’t have characters. No one really does. Mads Mikkelson is playing Mads Mikkelson, Nick Jonas is playing Nick Jonas, The strawberries taste like strawberries, the snozberries taste like snozberries. I’m not getting any characters here, I’m just watching the actors and that’s fine but it’s not captivating. I mean, if I want to just watch something and go “Oh, that’s Tom Holland”, I can have the Umbrella lipsync on my computer in seconds.
Because no one has any character, the bigger ideas that Chaos Walking is trying to touch on just don’t work as well. One of the big ideas is about toxic masculinity, our main character (who repeats his own name about a thousand times and yet I still had to go look it up because there was no character, only Holland) is constantly trying to “Be a man” by killing things or other generic masculine ideas and it could work if I gave a damn about the characters, or if there was a noted difference between the colony of all men and the colony that pops up halfway through that has women in it.
There’s the colonialism idea thrown in here with the mention of the native alien race… yeah, we see one alien about halfway through Chaos Walking and they are never brought up again. They’re literally meant to be this scary race that killed all the women and we see one of them and that’s it. It’s a waste of a setup, which is a recurring theme in this film. Ideas are brought up, half addressed, then tossed away.
When Chaos Walking is just about a teenage boy who can’t hide his thoughts from a girl who he likes, that’s when it almost works. There is an adorably awkward charm hearing Tom’s character’s thoughts about how he thinks the girl he’s with is pretty and then he desperately tries to either pretend it didn’t happen or get her to ignore it. There’s a kind of sweetness there that almost works… and then we have to deal with the evil preacher and I just tune things out again.
Oh right, evil preacher. It’s another character who is so cartoonishly evil and over the top that it’s laughable. We already have one bad guy, but this film thinks we needed another who looks like he’s one of the horsemen of the apocalypse and confirms how evil he is by drowning a puppy because of course. He’s not interesting, he hasn’t got layers or anything to make him worth thinking about that much. He’s just a cartoon, one that doesn’t have the decency of being funny.
Chaos Walking is just a disappointment of a film because you can see where a good film might be. Everyone clearly tried, they clearly wanted this to work and hoped it’d be the next big thing… but it’s not, it’s the latest film that just exists and will be forgotten about in no time. Hell, I won’t be shocked if I forget about it in a week. Shame, I wanted it to be good because I like all the people who’re in it but apparently that’s just not something I’m allowed to have.