Films with trouble productions are nothing new. Whether they can overcome them is up to the director — or, in the case of Chaos Walking, the directors. Principal photography wrapped up in 2017 with a release slated for 2019. But after poor test screenings, director Doug Liman, assisted by Fede Alvarez, decided to reshoot some of the film. They should have kept reshooting. Or rewriting. Or scrapped it altogether. It’s so odd because the author of the film’s original novel, Patrick Ness, is a co-writer on the film version. Try as they might, the film never eclipses a convoluted, incoherent screenplay, no matter how much effort the cast and crew put in. Only leaving audiences scratching their heads when the credits role for a film that barely makes a lick of sense.
In the near future, Saturn has been populated by a group of men suffering from an affliction known as “the Noise.” This causes every thought they have to be put literally on display. Most are unable to control it, while others, such as Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland), have a pretty decent grasp — at least when he needs to. They also happen to live in a society where all the women have been slaughtered by the local “aliens” called “Spackles.” But now, a woman named Viola (Daisy Ridley) has crashed on Todd’s farm and needs to find a way back to another ship so she can set off a distress call. Meanwhile, the Mayor of Prentisstown (Mads Mikkelsen) must do everything he can to capture the girl to keep everyone from learning the truth — about … something.
Chaos Walking sure has a lot going on, but even with how convoluted things get, it’s really a very simple story of getting characters from point A to B. Plagued by fun ideas thrown by the wayside, we’re left with a clichéd story of characters on the run. You always know how the film is going to end, regardless of any kinds of “twists” the filmmakers try to throw at us. Holland and Ridley look like they’re sleepwalking through the material, even if he can’t help but throw in a Spidey-style jump early on in the film. But considering the two of them are surrounded by the likes of Mikkelsen as the villain, and Demian Bichir as one of Todd’s adoptive fathers, the ebb and flow pacing kills the momentum.
What’s interesting is that Liman and Alvarez are both known for energetic action scenes. Here they seem more interested in how many animal injuries, or deaths, they can get away with. And anyone wondering what happens beyond this film will have to read Ness’s trilogy as there’s no way the other two are going to find themselves adapted to the big screen.