More than a few reviews for Chaos Walking were highly unfavorable when the movie was released after being delayed, but apart from a few areas that deserve a few improvements and a bit more development, this story wasn’t as godawful as some critics might have people believe. The story itself is a lot of fun since it’s inventive as hell and does feel like the type of tale that might attract a lot of viewers, but it could use a bit more development with some of the characters. With that being said though, there’s enough to go on as it’s understood that Todd, played by Tom Holland, is easy enough to understand since it’s mentioned that he’s an orphan, and he’s not exactly the most popular person in the town where he resides. To make matters worse, this planet, dubbed the New World, affects men as it makes their every thought visible as images and colorful wisps of steam-like material. It’s a trippy effect that kind of feels like a comment on the idea that men require far more discipline to keep their thoughts hidden, while women are far more capable of controlling their thoughts.
But the story itself is that Todd, who was raised by men in a town filled with men, is under the illusion that the women were all killed by the Spackle, the native species on the planet. When Viola, who is a part of what is called the Second Wave, crash lands with a scouting party on the planet, she’s discovered by Todd, as her craft crashes outside of his fathers’ farm. When she’s taken before the mayor she is kept for questioning but escapes when the mayor’s son triggers one of the devices in her bag, which blows several holes in the walls of the building she’s being kept in.
Escaping with Viola, Todd harbors several doubts about what he’s doing and is painfully awkward around Viola as his every thought is on display, kind of like an awkward teen that can’t help but say everything he’s thinking even if it’s a bad idea. Despite their differences, Todd and Viola do become used to each other, though, by the time they reach Farbranch, they’re still not quite close enough to be called friends. Viola, who overheard the mayor of Todd’s home plotting to take over her ship when it arrives, is adamant about reaching a location where she can contact her people and warn them about what’s going to happen. When Farbranch is attacked by the men of Prentisstown, Todd and Viola are forced to run again, and end up having to fight against the maniacal preacher of Prentisstown, Aaron, who is a rather intense character that ends up drowning Todd’s dog, Manchee, while watching Todd and Viola flee. Upon reaching a ship that crashed, or landed, many years before, Todd and Viola manage to fix the antenna and get a signal to the incoming ship. Despite this, the mayor of Prentisstown confronts Todd and nearly kills him, until Todd uses his thoughts to project the image of his mother and several other women that were killed by the men when it was discovered that the men couldn’t stand having their thoughts made visible.
That’s it, the big secret of the movie, that the men of Prentisstown killed their women when their thoughts began to broadcast over and over, revealing their true feelings and intentions. As secrets go, this one could have used a lot more development to really create a worthwhile story, but the idea is sound. The acting wasn’t bad, the dialogue was fine, and the overall idea was sound enough, but the execution, while not as bad as many might want people to think, could have been better. The fact that this movie was delayed before it was revealed makes it feel as though it should have had enough time to be fixed in terms of the overall screenplay. The effects were quite interesting since the idea of men not being able to contain their thoughts without a great deal of concentration feels like it would be a difficult existence, but eradicating women simply because of this sounds like a stretch. It works for the story though, but this could have been revealed in a much more effective manner.
In essence, this movie feels it was released without being finished, but what was presented was still good enough to garner a few more kind words than a lot of critics were ready to give. Several critics admitted that the movie wasn’t quite the dumpster fire that others did, but one has to remember that the expectations that some have for various movies aren’t quite as stringent when it comes to others. Chaos Walking is the kind of movie that feels like it could benefit from a reboot ten to twenty years from now, but it’s still enjoyable enough.