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After decades of experiencing so many films and understanding the respective industry, I rarely get extremely excited for an original sci-fi movie starring famous actors. I wouldn't be surprised if Chaos Walking is the most anticipated film of the month for thousands of viewers, which isn't an easy decision having in mind March is releasing tons of highly expected movies, such as Raya and the Last Dragon, Cherry, Zack Snyder's Justice League, Godzilla x Kong, amongst others. It' almost impossible not to feel remotely interested in watching a film with such a phenomenal cast - Tom Holland (Spider-Man, The Devil All the Time), Daisy Ridley (Star Wars, Murder on the Orient Express), Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Demián Bichir (Land, The Grudge), Cynthia Erivo (Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale), and more.
Add Doug Liman (The Bourne franchise, The Edge of Tomorrow) as the director and screenwriters with tremendously successful credits as Patrick Ness (A Monster Calls) and Christopher Ford (Spider-Man: Homecoming), what could go wrong? Well... almost everything. I possess no knowledge of the source material, but from what I could gather, the book trilogy of the same name was very well-received, which I don't doubt for a second. If there's one thing no one can take away from Chaos Walking is its incredibly captivating concepts and imaginative visual ideas. From the premise of people being able to hear men's thoughts (noise) to the actual visuals of said brain activity, I felt deeply invested during the first act.
The futuristic setting is somewhat familiar, but the production/set design definitely set an engaging atmosphere. The score (Marco Beltrami, Brandon Roberts) also features interesting tracks that create a sense of wonder in this new world. Unfortunately, this is as far as I can go compliment-wise. Sure, the cast offers remarkable performances, especially Holland and Ridley, who obviously share most of the screentime as the underdeveloped protagonists, but sadly this is one of those movies where it's hard not to find a significant flaw with everything. The lack of proper characterization is one of the main issues. While Holland's character misses a regular arc - he has no evolution whatsoever, ending the film with the exact same defects as in the beginning - Ridley's character raises dozens of questions that remain unanswered about herself, her past, her abilities, and her origins.
The new world presented to the viewers packs hundreds of unquestionably innovative and exciting ideas, but none reaches even a fraction of its potential. The "superpower" of hearing thoughts is rarely seen in a different manner other than chaotic, annoying noise, which is hugely disappointing, having in mind the scarce showings of its real power. Nevertheless, the most frustrating component of the narrative is the introduction of massively important story elements that are completely forgotten by the end of the movie, namely - without getting into spoilers - an entire native population that remains as one of the most fascinating aspects of the screenplay that wasn't remotely explained.
Nowadays, people have more knowledge and understanding of how much studios impact the production of any film. Honestly, I don't know if this is one of those projects ruined by awfully dumb corporate demands or if Doug Liman and his team of writers screwed the pooch. One thing is for sure: director, screenwriters, and/or producers, they're the people to blame for such a frustratingly terrible adaptation. I apologize to Doc Crotzer, but this is one of the worst editing jobs I've seen in years, though I want it to be clear: Crotzer is far from being the sole or main culprit of such a horribly put-together movie. The camera work is also all-over-the-place (Ben Seresin).
Finally, I don't know if this following story detail is as explicit and barely explained in the source material as it is in this film, but due to the lack of any decent explanation besides "because", I strongly dislike the whole "everyone can hear men's thoughts, but no one can hear the women's". To be clear, my issue isn't related to the idea but to its evolution in this movie. Men, especially Holland's character, are shown to think like a primate with sexual thoughts concerning women and offenses to everyone and everything. Men's thoughts represent them as utter pigs. However, the whole "women's thoughts are hidden from everyone" can easily be interpreted as "women don't have brains", especially considering the film's failed attempt at elaborating this concept.
Chaos Walking will end up as one of the most disappointing, frustrating movies of the year. In addition to this, it's also another entry in the list of "films with innovative, interesting concepts that fail to reach half of their potential". Besides the engaging production design, a cool score, and decent performances, any viewer will struggle not to find a massive flaw in every single aspect of the narrative. From the dozens of unanswered questions regarding Daisy Ridley's character to the lack of a proper arc for Tom Holland's role, the underdeveloped protagonists are just one of many screenplay issues. Critical plot points and story elements either miss an explanation or are entirely forgotten by the end of a horrendously edited movie. Transitions between cuts are very choppy and make zero connection between storylines. The whole "men's thoughts are seen by everyone, but women's thoughts are not" is depicted in a way that leaves men portrayed as pigs and insinuates women have no brains. I genuinely don't know if this massive disaster is due to studio interference and/or to the director and screenwriters team-up, but one thing is for certain: personally, it's one of the worst films of the year.
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