Chaos cast deserves better script
The male gaze assumes new meaning in Chaos Walking, whose cast deserved better
I'd like to ask Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley was it was like starring in the dystopian sci-fi that is Chaos Walking, but I'd be afraid they wouldn't remember. It was shot four long years ago and required extensive reshoots. It is set in AD 2257, now closer than ever.
The story, based on the 2008 young-adult novel The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, sounds promising. On a future off-world colony (boringly titled New World), all the women have been killed off by a race of beings even more boringly known as The Spackle. (To what other demons does this planet play host? The Grout? Filler?)
The men, including young
Todd Hewitt (Holland), live in a simple settlement that looks a lot like an unused western set that someone had lying around. With horses and wooden buildings, but also the odd energy weapon, I was immediately reminded of an old Planet of the Apes movie, and not in a good way.
Somehow, the planet causes the men to broadcast every thought into the air around them, sometimes in words, often in blurry pictures.
Women never developed this power, or curse.
Imagine the ensuing mayhem if every man in the world turned into a weird, backward version of Mel Gibson in What Women Want.
We spend a little time getting to know the rules of New World. Some men are better at “hiding their noise” than others. Todd is one of the worst, which is why I know his name so well — he repeats it like a mantra to block out other thoughts. The town mayor, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is the best. He's also the only man on this or any planet who can pull off a costume that includes a cowboy hat and a giant fur coat. But the story really gets moving when Viola (Ridley) shows up, lone survivor of a crashed ship from Earth. She needs to contact a larger group currently on its way to New World, but Mayor Mikkelsen has other plans. Not quite clear what they are, but capture is step one, so Todd steps up to keep her safe. The movie has great fun with the notion that Todd has never seen a woman before.
But Chaos Walking represents something of a misfire, despite the charm and chemistry of its stars. It feels like the movie is marking time, spinning its wheels while it pushes its characters along to an underwhelming climax.
Watching Chaos Walking, I was reminded of press screenings when critics would be pounced upon by publicists, eager to know their first reactions. With this one I'd have had no choice but to lower my gaze and repeat my name quietly to myself. I can guarantee they don't want to know what I think.