This is my first time back in theaters in two months so… hallelujah! But, um… Doug Liman, please just focus on Edge of Tomorrow 2 from here on out. Don’t abandon another franchise again like you did with Jason Bourne.
Before diving into this review, I need to explain the premise of Chaos Walking, as it’s necessary for you to know if you want to understand the rest of what I have to say, so if you’re one of those people who like to go into a movie completely blind, not knowing what it’s about, skip reading this. If you’re of the latter, then here’s the gist: Todd is a young man who lives in a small town, formed after a crash landing occurred on an unknown planet. This place has a catch though, in which men can hear the thoughts of other men as they’re broadcasted out-loud 24/7 — they call this the “noise”. All the women from this town supposedly died long ago, as well.
I did a test: I decided to watch Doug Liman, Patrick Ness, and Christopher Ford’s final draft motion picture of Chaos Walking, and then compare it to an immediate read of Charlie Kaufman’s original draft of the script. As a result, here’s my consensus on the script: it’s a bit of an expositional mess that may or may have not worked depending on the executioner; this story would CERTAINLY require a headache’s work of editing as one would expect from the “noise” concept being applied in a typical, busy-as-hell Kaufman screenplay; which is good! He’s using this gimmick to its fullest potential by offering up so many examples of it that aren’t just played for jokes or blatant poignancy; they magnify and convince us of this nauseating society of constant and unintentional communication, revealing the deviant complexion of humans as opposed to other species.
It’s also worth noting too that nearly every character desperation or psychology is exposed initially in this first draft, and unlike the movie, isn’t hidden till later for dramatic effect; Kaufman understands that the construct of “noise” is a vulnerability unlike any other, and it would be unrealistic to assume people could avoid it or tame it to a completely fluid effect with “masculinity” — a central theme that the script handles FAR better than the actual movie. Our main character, Todd, has a dog who’s able to speak English through “the noise” in that draft too so it’s automatically already superior; for clarification, the dog is in the actual movie, he just doesn’t talk.
Okay, now onto Ness and Ford’s version, aka, the actual movie we ended up with.
Suffice to say, I love the “noise” concept from Ness’s novel The Knife of Never Letting Go that’s brought into Chaos Walking. Evidently, the potential it wrings is lost to what transpires as conversion to exhausting blockbuster and YA-hero-arc formulas, but there weren’t like “no” moments here where it’s completely revoked of creativity. Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley give adequate performances as our leads; their chemistry is pretty flimsy but their characters alone are serviceable. The comedy works periodically, but I did get some chuckles out of it given the awkward persona of Todd combined with this revealing curse of the “noise”. The movie itself really isn’t as unusually incompetent as some have claimed; the obnoxious plot conveniences/holes and pathetic twists scattered throughout that are indulged in to keep the story interesting and emotionally relevant just reminded me of other predictable blockbusters for which a majority of people seem to rather praise? Company logos sure do miracles!
In an ironic way, Lionsgate basically dumbed down the “noise” concept through a sort of masculine discipline themselves so that it could seem less drastic in its corollary on humankind and more sidelined to the audience-friendly narrative they replaced it with. I feel like the executive producers’ statements alone calling the previous drafts of Chaos Walking “unreleasable” says it all considering how Kaufman’s 2012 version, which was at least close to decent and more vulnerable, has now become an even bigger disaster due to the robotic timidity of the industry that made it. Now that’s what I call “bittersweet hypocrisy”.
There isn’t a whole lot of commentary to get out of this either unless you’re dying to see repetitive surface-level jabs at toxic masculinity and a fur-coated Mads Mikkelsen preaching incel culture due to the classic male insecurities he inhibits. Never expected to see a “Priest Terminator” during the course of my life though, so at least this movie isn’t completely void of redemption like some critics have been making it out to appear. Wild stuff, but it would’ve probably been better if it were all implemented into a video game. Chaos Walking screams Horizon Zero Dawn vibes.
“Chaos Walking” is now playing in theaters.