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Review: ‘Chaos Walking’ Presents Interesting Premise, But Is It Theater-Worthy?

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – What would you do if all of your thoughts were on audio and visual display for everyone around you, all the time?

That’s what humans in the not-too-distant future are dealing with in “Chaos Walking.”

Teenager Todd Hewitt, played by Tom Holland, discovers Viola, played by Daisy Ridley. She’s a mysterious girl who has crash landed on his planet, where all the women have disappeared and the men are afflicted by “the Noise” – a force that puts all their thoughts on display.

The title of the film comes from a line in the book series on which the movie is based: “The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, man is just chaos walking.

But nobody can hear Viola’s thoughts, and that makes many in Todd’s town suspicious and fearful of her, so she and Todd go on the run to find safety.

“Chaos Walking” was originally supposed to come out two years ago, but test audiences didn’t react well to the initial version of the movie. So the studio and director Doug Liman (best known for “The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Edge of Tomorrow”) had to do some extensive re-shoots.

Then the pandemic forced it to be delayed even more, and here we are finally.

It’s got a really strong cast, with two huge up-and-coming stars in Holland and Ridley, as well as other notables Mads Mikkelsen, Nick Jonas, David Oyewolo and Cynthia Erivo.

But for some reason, outside of Holland’s main character Todd, nobody else really stands out or gets enough screen time to be very interesting — including Daisy Ridley, whose most memorable thing from the movie is having blond hair.

And that’s too bad because I found the central concept of the movie fascinating and unique.

I’ve seen films where the main character narrates their thoughts to the audience in voiceover. I’ve seen films where one character can read others’ thoughts. But I’ve never seen one where the all the characters can hear each other’s thoughts.

How embarrassing would it be if everything you were thinking but not saying was still somehow visible and out loud – whether you wanted it to be or not? How would you try and prevent it? How would your thoughts and behaviors change if they were always on display? How would you react to hearing and seeing others’ thoughts?

Speaking of that, Liman and special effects supervisor Louis Craig came up with a great way to visually represent the characters’ thoughts on display. It’s kind of a cross between the aurora borealis and the smoky illusions you’d see at a haunted house.

But despite being a sci-fi movie, there wasn’t an over-reliance on big CG moments or explosions. It was kind of a sci-fi western movie, with most of it taking place in pioneer-looking towns and the mountains and forests – not on spaceships.

As for warnings, there are a few.  “Chaos Walking” is rated PG-13 for some language and violence. And a big heads up that some of the violence involves animals, in case that’s something you’re particularly sensitive to.

The biggest non-content warning I have is that because the movie is based on the first book in a trilogy, there are too many plot threads and characters are left dangling by the end of the movie. I assume they’ll be resolved in future installments.

Combine that with the fact that I don’t even know if they’re going to make the rest of the series into films, and it leaves you feeling even more frustrated.

All in all, “Chaos Walking” has some good things going for it, but there’s just not enough for me. I give the movie 2 out of 4 stars.  It’s a cool idea but wasted a talented cast for the most part.

As for where you can watch it, it is exclusively in movie theaters. There’s no streaming for this film for a while. It may be worth a look if you love sci-fi movies or Tom Holland or you’re itching to see a new film in person. But it’s not good enough for me to recommend it if you’re not quite comfortable with the theater experience yet.

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