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Chaos Walking


‘Chaos Walking is an utter mess, too silly for adults, too dry and weird for kids…’

Doug Liman’s long-shelved futuristic dystopia romance certainly lives up to it’s title; this is Chaos Walking, from beginning to end, an incoherent, lavishly expensive, utterly confused farrago that boils up a few good ideas into a soup of insanity. Chaos Walking should have been an easy follow-up to the Hunger Games and various teen-fantasies of defying authoritarian futures, but instead leaves a slab of expensive celluloid behind that should be left to demonstrate to future generations how $100 million dollars can be pointlessly wasted.

Storywise, it’s not easy to get your head around, but here’s what I got. Tom Holland is Todd, ‘in the near distant future’ says the press notes, that’s actually 2577, I think, so not that near IMHO. Tom is afflicted by The Noise, a condition by which his thoughts are visually manifested to the other people in the film, and us, the audience as smudgy oil-paintings in the air. Todd is one of the Men of the New World, but the Men of the New World have no Women of the New World because of some previous war, so it’s big news for noisy boys when a spaceship lands and Viola (Daisy Ridley) pops out. It’s hard to know where Viola is from, since she dresses like LeeLoo Multipass and her accents and demeanour suggest she’s recently graduated from a Hampstead private finishing school for girls. Viola doesn’t want to be captured by the Men of the New World and legs it offski on a super-space motorcycle. Inviting her to come on and feel the Noise, Todd gives chase on horse-back and the two of them spark up a fugitive romance that threatens to change the very future of the dystopian blah-blah-blah…

There’s a reason why this project has been on the shelf for several years after disastrous reshoots, test screenings, re-writes and everything that can possibly go wrong with a film. It’s a space-Western of a revisionist kind, like Heaven’s Gate with ray-guns and a central conceit that’s hard to explain or enjoy; what does it add, other than shonky effects, that everyone can see and hear each other’s thoughts? Pretty much every writer in Hollywood, from Charlie Kaufman to John Lee Hancock, has a crack at rewriting this shambles, and it shows; Chaos Walking is an utter mess, too silly for adults, too dry and weird for kids. Tom’s horse gets killed, and his dog gets drowned, and you should know both of these off-putting things before you start.

This is based on a YA book, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, and joins the Divergent incomplete fiasco, I Am Number One, Beautiful Creatures, The Vampires Apprentice and the huge, growing pile of other busted franchise openers; even with ridiculously accomplished support from David Oyelowo, Mads Mikkelsen dressed as Doris Day in Calamity Jane and why not throw in a random Jonas brother in the form of Nick, this is a compellingly unwatchable turkey, and the first complete disaster from Liman, a usually reliable pair of hands with big films from Cruise, Pitt and the first Bourne movie under his belt. But there’s nothing anyone can do to salvage this drippy sci-fi rubble, worth a look for ironists and pranksters only; initial release price of £15.99 quite hefty for this.


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  1. I saw this in theaters and greatly regretted it. I always take it as a warning sign when a film adapts the first installment of a book series and names the film after the series and not that book, ala “The Dark Tower” … I immediately assume the filmmakers have no confidence in their source material and want to cash in on name recognition.

    Cool thought particular effects, though. Not sure if all that CG was worth losing over $80 million.

    • It’sa cool effect, but a distracting one, I felt. But I want to show genuine empathy for anyone unfortunate enough to see this in the cinema. There is no shame in seeking medical help after seeing a film like this.

  2. I read and enjoyed the first book. I was curious to see what they’d do with the movie. I saw the trailer and wasn’t compelled or convinced by anything. Your review is probably the last nail on that coffin too. Doubt I’ll bother with it now. 😀 Thanks for that!

    • I’m aware that ness has a good rep, and the more erudite amongst us, ie you, will know the virtues. But they really didn’t translate to the screen, this film is all over the shop and best avoided.

  3. Showcase just invited me to rent this, not that i am a renter but if I was I would not be saying anything since I am a Man of the Old World and afflicted by Silence.

    • Not for £15.99 no thanks, I am a Man of Moth-balled Wallet when it comes to stuff like this…

  4. I’m told that YA books are what is floating the fiction book-seller industry. In skimming agents to submit writing too it’s actually difficult to find any interested in any other kind of fiction. Non-fiction of course rules the day. Cookbooks especially. here’s my idea – Leeloo Multipass and our young Todd go off someplace and wonderfully prepare a horse together . . .

    • Or a dog. I gather that YA book this is based on is good, but cinematically, it’s a non-starter. Better off filming a cook-book…or just a turkey…

  5. So spiderman and a jedi have a baby?

    ♪Spider jedi, spider jedi♪
    ♪does whatever a spider jedi can♪

    Yeah, doesn’t have the same panache as the old tv show, that’s for sure.

  6. I loved the books. I love Mads Mikklesen. For some reason, despite it all, I still have an urge to watch to it. Maybe you’re all wrong! It could still be good! I have to see!

  7. Wow. That looks really bad. Not interested in the YA-SF genre anyway. Didn’t bother with Hunger Games. Maze Runner was awful. Hell to the nope.

    • It’s not good at all. Would leave you pining for the Hunger Games. never finished Maze Runner. They never finished Divergent.

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