Chaos Walking (2021)

Chaos Walking
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Patrick Ness, Christopher Ford
Based on: Patrick Ness’ novel The Knife of Never Letting Go
Cast: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Demián Bichir, David Oyelowo, Kurt Sutter, Cynthia Erivo, Bethany Anne Lind, Mads Mikkelsen, Nick Jonas, Ray McKinnon
Seen on: 21.6.2021

Content Note: cissexism

Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) is the last boy in Prentisstown, a settlement town on another planet. When the human settlers arrived, the men got telepathic powers. Shortly after their arrival, the native inhabitants killed all the women and girls. Todd grew up knowing nothing but the Noise of the men around him, and as the youngest settler is just about to reach adulthood. But one day he is out and about with his dog Manchee and finds a crashed spaceship – and a girl (Daisy Ridley). He lets the Mayor (Mads Mikkelsen) know, but soon has doubts about how the girl is treated. Doubts that his guardians Ben (Demián Bichir) and Cillian (Kurt Sutter) strengthen. In no time, Todd and the girl – Viola – are on the run together.

I only recently read the book this is based on and hated it. But I watched Chaos Walking anyway because the cinema has air-condition and I knew I’d be getting my puppy a few days later which means no cinema for a while. And, okay, for Mads Mikkelsen. And even though my expectations were lower than low after my experience with the book, I was still underwhelmed.

The film poster showing Todd (Tom Holland) and Viola (Daisy Ridley) superimposed over an eclipse and a moon and a rocket.

Chaos Walking continues problematic aspects of the books, in particular the biologistic-binary view of gender (all men get Noise, no women do; everybody can be fitted neatly into either category, trans, inter* or non-binary people don’t exist). It wasn’t to be expected that the movie softens that aspect a little, but it would have been nice if they had.

But some things actually get actively worse here: in the book, Todd struggles with killing. Here, it is clear that killing is something men do and Todd is a man. No more struggle and only the most benevolent interpretation will read it as a criticism of toxic masculinity. Viola, too, becomes a veritable killing machine and has no qualms about that either. Plus, the most interesting bit about the book was the beginning of a crititque of colonialism (something that, according to the wikipedia summaries, will be explored more in book 2 and 3, but I won’t be reading that). That is completely absent here. We see one alien and it is aggressive and dangerous. Other than that, it’s all about the humans.

Todd (Tom Holland), Viola (Daisy Ridley) and Manchee running from a horse and its rider.

What remains is a film that has no emotional weight whatsoever. Everything just kind of flows along and even when the fucking dog dies (a scene that had me bawling my eyes out when I read it in the book), it is more of a “mhm, that’s very sad” moment than an actually sad moment.

The film is a mess. Not even Mads Mikkelsen (who is perfectly cast) and the rest of the good cast can save things here, nor the generally interesting idea of the Noise. The best thing about it is that there (probably) won’t be any sequels.

Todd (Tom Holland) seeing Viola (Daisy Ridley) in his Noise.

Summarizing: skip it.

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