The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - CHAOS WALKING | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - CHAOS WALKING

chaos walking review
A female astronaut crashlands on a planet inhabited solely by men, whose every thought is exposed.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Doug Liman

Starring: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelsen, Demián Bichir, Cynthia Erivo, Nick Jonas, David Oyelowo

chaos walking poster

When it comes to tackling sci-fi stories with tricky premises, Doug Liman seems to love a challenge. This has paid off for him in the past, with Edge of Tomorrow reworking Groundhog Day into a fun action romp. But it's also backfired, as seen in 2008's Jumper, which took a difficult setup and rendered it a somewhat incoherent mess. With his latest stab at sci-fi, Chaos Walking, adapted from the first book in a trilogy by author Patrick Ness, Liman has unfortunately come up short again.

chaos walking review

They say men think about sex once every seven seconds. If that's true, then given its 108 minute running time, the male hero of Chaos Walking should have thought about sex 925 times by my calculations. Yet he only thinks about hanky panky a half dozen times. How do we know this? Because Chaos Walking is set on a planet solely inhabited by men, and their every thought can be heard and sometimes seen by both the audience and the other characters in the film. Awkward!!!

Daisy Ridley is in this sci-fi saga, but she's not playing the Luke Skywalker surrogate this time. That role goes to Tom Holland, retreading a lot of his wide-eyed Peter Parker shtick as teenager Todd, who is bored out of his mind living on a planet with no girls. That is until a spacecraft on a scouting mission crashlands, leaving female astronaut Viola (Ridley) alone on the Planet of the Blokes. Stumbling across Viola Todd hides her from the settlement's menacing mayor (Mads Mikkelsen) and agrees to escort her to a far off community which has been kept a secret from him until now. There it's hoped she'll be able to communicate with her mothership and exit terra testosterone.

chaos walking review

At its core, Chaos Walking is a pretty simple sci-fi chase thriller dressed up in western garb. What makes it such a mess is how the film struggles with the idea of Todd and his male cohorts' thoughts being exposed. Liman visualises this as a purple haze forming around Todd's head while he constantly blabbers, and the effect is like a vaping Rain Man. It's no surprise that this quickly becomes very, very annoying, and there are only a couple of moments where the film does anything interesting with this concept.

Chaos Walking was shot as far back as 2017 and fell into post-production limbo as the filmmakers realised they had backed themselves into a corner with its messy central conceit. There's clearly a more coherent cut out there somewhere, as this version feels like some important scenes have been excised. The trek across the wilderness is as short as my trip to my local Tesco, and a subplot with David Oyelowo as a religious fanatic is introduced and largely forgotten about, as is the alien race the settlers have been in conflict with.

chaos walking review

Given how well they've proved themselves in Star Wars and Marvel properties, the lack of chemistry between Ridley and Holland is surprising. Much of that is down to the film's struggles to deal with Viola being exposed to Todd's horny thoughts, which simply can't be handled in any kind of delicate way. Ultimately, Chaos Walking fails because it's a sci-fi western with some high ideas about gender relations that's lumbered with a setup that would be more at home in a 1980s teen sex comedy. If I could read men's thoughts, I'd love to see what Liman was thinking when he agreed to commit this story to the screen.

Chaos Walking
 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.