Chaos Walking (2021): messy and chaotic, but still fun

Chaos Walking (2021) is a sci-fi fantasy adventure with Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland, and it’s not as bad as critics say. I’m putting that out there from the start, as there are many out there that consider it a total car crash of a movie. Yet it isn’t.

It’s scrappy, yes, but at least things happen. I remained entertained throughout and that has to count for something. I suppose when the internet lowers your expectations, you’re waiting for the moment when it doesn’t work, or falls over. I didn’t have that with Chaos Walking (2021) – taken from YA novel, The Knife Of Letting Go.

The movie is a little slight, and there could have been more meat on the bones in terms of plot and character. But it still had a very likeable Tom Holland as the lead, and it was nice to watch him bounce off Daisy Ridley in that delightfully endearing way that only adorable Tom can do.

There’s a running gag about how he cannot keep a secret, which works perfectly for a movie where his every thought is literally spilling out of his head in colourful cloud (called ‘The Noise’), often accompanied by images that give him away. Some of these moments work nicely in a lightly comic way.

The plot is fairly straightforward: Viola (Daisy Ridley) crashes on a planet near to Todd’s (Tom Holland) village – a place that’s just inhabited by men, and run by a (surprise, surprise) very bad Mayor David Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen). He wants the ship that’s coming to rescue her, but she doesn’t want him to kill her rescue party. So she goes on the run with Todd to try to find a way to warn her ship before it arrives.

What follows is a bit of a journey/adventure movie, with the two of them going from place to place and meeting people, all the while being chased by the evil Mayor.

Perhaps the area where critics have given it a kicking is a wasted premise. Initially we have a colony of men whose thoughts are all crashing together. They’re partly controlled by the Mayor, who seemingly has much more mastery over ‘The Noise’ than most. Our hero, Todd, has a pair of male father figures, or two gay dads. Plus the town has a religious zealot called Aaron (David Oyelowo), whose thoughts spew forth in an angry red cloud.

Right there we have about ten interesting things that could be explored. But the movie has no time for that — quickly our heroes are on the run and off to the next place, and so on. It really leaves a lot unexplained as we go, and is only saved by an endearing performance from Tom Holland.

By the end it did feel like it had set things up for a sequel. Lots of movies do that these days, and as this one was adapted from a book you get the sense there was a lot that hit the cutting room floor — either intentionally or just because they had to put something out.

Despite my lukewarm enthusiasm for this movie, the sequel is still something I’d watch. I liked Holland and Ridley as the leads and the sci-fi premise had a lot more mileage in it, particularly in terms of comedy and adventure. It’s highly unlikely we will get a sequel, but with streaming services all fighting for our attention these days, more to be mined from the book and two bankable stars as the leads, you never know.

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