Chaos & Walking. Lots and Lots Of Walking.
Hearing thoughts is one of those super-powers that seems great on paper until you realize the ramifications of what this would actually mean. To be honest, an audio function on Twitter would probably do the same job.
Would you be able to handle hearing what everyone is thinking all of the time? How long could you stand that cacophony of noise bouncing around in your head? And would your own thoughts betray you?
On paper, this seems like perfect fodder for a big blockbuster young adult movie, and thankfully there’s some good source material to go on in the YA book, ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go.’ Written by Patrick Ness, this science fiction flick lays a lot of groundwork for this movie to ease into, but the execution crash lands harder than Viola’s spaceship does.
The movie takes a lot of liberties with the book, but for those unaware the plot revolves around a new society of humans that land on an alien world, ready for a fresh start. Unfortunately all the men are affected by something called ‘The Noise’, which causes all males to project their thoughts through swirly, neon-lit wisps of smoke that protrude from their heads. Tellingly, the women are not affected.
Unfortunately the women in the village are slaughtered by natives of this world called Spackle (at least that’s what we’re told early on) forcing the remaining men to band together in order to survive. Some inside the town learn to control their thoughts, including cool-headed Mayor of Pretisstown, David Prentiss.
Fast forward to present day and our protagonist comes in the form of inquisitive, unremarkable farm-boy Todd. When a manned spaceship crash lands on the planet, one survivor stumbles clear of the wreckage; a girl called Viola Eade.
A chase then ensues, one that sees our unlikely protagonist Todd swept up for the ride. As Todd’s adoptive family learns what’s going on, they task him with taking Viola to the community of Farbranch who can help. Along the way though, Todd uncovers some shocking home truths about life on this planet and what his true purpose really is.
There’s a lot going on here and at times this movie feels like half the run-time is chock full of exposition. It also doesn’t help that the pacing is all over the shop, with a lot of walking through the woods suddenly interrupted by short bursts of action. Some of this could be forgiven if the two leads had chemistry – but they don’t. In fact, there’s so little here that you could probably thaw the ice between the two in the scenes they share.
Visually, Chaos Walking looks great and the colourful smoke pretty accurately portrays what it would be like to see the thoughts of other people.
The various establishing shots boasts a gorgeous world in all its glory and there’s an almost Wild West feel to a lot of the visuals, playing into the main ideas of the movie. Given this film has a budget of $125 million, it’s surprising that the editing gives the impression it used a fraction of that total.
The supporting cast do their best with this one but much like Woody Harrelson in Hunger Games or Patricia Clarkson in Maze Runner, Mads Mikkelsen and co. just can’t do enough to elevate the source material.
In the end Chaos Walking is a chaotic picture that really emphasizes the walking part of its title. The pacing is completely inconsistent, the story struggles to hit the same heights as its book counterpart and the two lead actors have so little chemistry you’d think this was their first day on set.
This is an unfortunate swing and a miss from Lionsgate, striking out as the YA carousel continues to turn. This is one ride you won’t be returning to in a hurry.