Chaos Walking had the potential to be the new Hunger Games. From the incredibly talented cast to the interesting plot of the book series it was based off of— it should have been a straight forward equation for success. However, things did not work out that way.
Minor spoilers ahead
There was not a lot of advertising for this movie from the lead actors. Most of the marketing I had seen were on YouTube. There was no merch like there was for The Hunger Games and Divergent. Back when The Hunger Games was coming out, every store had something related to the series, so it reached a greater audience. As far as I could see, they did not even get an official premiere.
The movie shifted back and forth from Todd to the Mayor quite abruptly. At times it was distracting, but I also wished they had kept more of the Mayor’s side a surprise for the end. The shifting made the plot more predictable which made it feel like it was dragging on. Subtle hints to the Mayor’s plan would have been effective to keep viewers gripped and predicting what would happen next.
The casting for Chaos Walking was great, especially with the leads, but the chemistry between them did not feel strong enough on screen. With Todd’s main motivation throughout the movie being centered around Viola, I expected more passion between the two. The scenes that were meant to be awkward, like Todd’s first romantic thoughts of Viola, did successfully cause me to physically cringe.
If Chaos Walking had come out in 2013, it would have been far more successful at the box office. The teen dystopian genre seemed to start dying out around 2014-2015. Releasing the film in the middle of a global pandemic did not turn out to be a benefit either. I understand that the movie was originally shot in 2017 and had to be re-filmed, but they should have waited until more theaters opened back up before releasing it. The fact that they did not have the ability to completely sell out theaters was an automatic hit they had to take. Perhaps if the film had been released on a streaming service as well they would have reached a larger audience and seen more success.
Visually this film is absolutely stunning. The way they showed the Noise on screen is better than I had pictured it when I was reading the book. They allowed it to live up to the title name and be truly chaotic. The locations they chose made for a real and understated feel. I may be biased because I love a woods setting in films— it makes it automatically feel more adventurous. I found the costuming to be a little all over the place and difficult to pinpoint what it would feel like to live in this futuristic society. I have not been able to find any interviews with the costume designer, so I am not sure what the intention was.
While interesting, the characters lacked clear motivation throughout the film. I don’t want to compare too much to the books because not everybody will be going into viewing the film with knowledge of the novels.The characters are aged up in the movie, which usually I am not a fan of, but it worked here. In the film, we don’t really get a good sense of who Todd or Viola are as individuals. It is unfortunate to be introduced to these interesting characters with great potential, but we do not get to see much character development.
In the book, Manchee (Todd’s dog) has noise of his own and becomes a character who actively affects the plot of the story. The movie changes this and portrays him as a regular, silent dog companion. I understand the decision to make this alteration, but part of me will always be disappointed that the dynamic between Todd and Manchee will never make it to the big screens.
As far as the Spackle (the alien-looking beings near Prentisstown) are concerned, I actually wish they had been cut out of the film altogether. Since they were only brought up for one short scene, it raises more questions than it does to advance the plot or set the scene. In my opinion, the film had so many plot lines going on at once that it could use to lose a couple of minor details.
Comedic relief would have done a world of good for this movie. The story has some very heavy themes, so a break in the tension would have allowed for a better flow and viewing experience. Each of the cast members are fully capable of delivering a few comedic lines, so there was no lack of talent.
Overall Chaos Walking is a good movie. It is enjoyable as a casual film to view. While I wish the plot had been closer to that of the books, the cast and crew made it work. I am glad I was able to experience this film in theaters. I just wish this film had been elevated to its full potential. Chaos Walking is currently available on AppleTV to buy for $7.99 or to rent for $0.99. At that price, it is undoubtedly worth the watch.
I have only read the first book of the Chaos Walking trilogy, but I loved it and have added the two sequels to my reading list.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Have you seen Chaos Walking?