Contrary to popular political opinion Chaos Walking is not the short trip that Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes as he approaches the podium to address the nation with his latest pandemic briefing looking like an albino honey monster. Instead it’s the first in a series for young adult novels and hoped for franchise first starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley both well versed in appearing in effects laden blockbusters.
Holland stars as Tom Hewiit, the son a farmer and one of many Earthlings who left a degraded Earth to populate another world where we now find them in 2257. Their new world is one without women ,one which our Editor’s wife is desperate to book him a way trip but it’s a world where the women colonizers were all killed in a battle with the indigenous population. With a male only population a culture of testosterone fuelled machismo pervades enforced by Mayor Mads Mikkelsen wearing a cowboy stetson and a huge furry coat and looking like John Wayne hosting Pimp my Ride persecuting any man for expressing what he perceives as weak emotion, a crime that he regards as, ‘acting like a woman!’ It’s not an easy emotion to hide because Chaos Walking has an intriguing premise namely that the character’s thoughts can be heard by others. So right from the start Holland’s thoughts are heard by us and seen too because they are signified by swirling miasma around their head as they go about their business walking around with swirling haze of colours as though they’re auditioning for a Lynx deodorant advert. Literally ‘thinking aloud’ the process is called ‘Noise’ and characters, rather than shouting ‘shut your mouth’ instead utter others to, ‘hide your noise’ as they pick up on uncontrolled thoughts. It’s an ability we wish politicians had when addressing each other as, ‘my honourable friend’.
So into this female free, mindreading world crash lands Viola (Daisy Ridley) from a space craft that is found by Tom. Like today’s teenagers whose only experience of women is the furtive sharing of dodgy film clips on their iphones he finds himself tongue tied on meeting a real woman but soon and almost inevitably finds himself falling in love with her. Finding herself on a strange planet she needs Tom to navigate her way to a transmitter that will help her get off the hostile to women planet. But as the course of true love never runs smoothly it’s not her over protective father that Tom has to save her but from but the toxic masculinity of Mayor Mads and his posse of marauding macho men who greet her arrival with the same sort of reaction as Labour PR’s on hearing that Diane Abbott has decided to do a live TV interview.
There’s a lot going on in Chaos Walking with themes and sub plots that would have benefitted from further exploration and are restricted by the films 103 minute running time. Genocide of an indigenous population is ideally suited to the film’s Western setting as well as a theological/philosophical debate plus feminism alongside allusions to mythology and scripture are woven into the plot alongside action set pieces.
Holland & Ridley are an engaging couple that are easy to empathize and there’s a small low key scene where she reads to him that engages most outside of the action. The ‘noise’ device is especially good and is something not seen before and well handled by director Doug Liman and understandably necessitated a huge team of sound editors and CGI in the majority of the films shots. But in encompassing so much in less than two hours it’s unable to explore an intriguing premise that perhaps a TV series might have been able to achieve more successfully.
Here’s the Chaos Walking trailer…….
CHAOS WALKING IS RELEASED ON 2ND APRIL 2021