What do you get when you put Spiderman, Rey from Star Wars, and Hannibal Lector together in one film? Chaos Walking. So, the actors - not the characters - join for the movie, whose title refers to its major plot point of a future, dystopian world where men can no longer hide their thoughts.
With no filter to modify behavior, men become “chaos walking.” That intellectual premise comes from novelist Patrick Ness, whose Chaos Walking trilogy garnered all sorts of young adult literary awards since its first entry appeared in 2008. The label “young” proves misleading. Sure, two main characters qualify as youthful, but they live in a world full of grown-up issues.
Daisy Ridley, who made her name as royalty in the last three Star Wars sequels continues her screen voyages through other worlds as she crash lands on a new planet. One resident looks like Spiderman’s Tom Holland but lacks any superhero skills. Still, he and all the other men in his community share the ability to read one another’s minds, a trait that proves more a hindrance than a benefit. The men’s thoughts create a noise-ridden world dominated by fear. Their leader fosters the anxiety, no surprise to those who recognize the man playing him: Mads Mikkelsen of television’s Hannibal series.
The high-profile stars end up in a cross-country chase, an activity Director Doug Liman previously displayed flair for in The Bourne Identity. But, Chaos Walking sends Liman to a mostly non-motorized setting providing little flash. No one needs breathing equipment, showy costumes, or specialized sets. Trees, rivers, meadows and grimy clothes do the trick in a sad community where dark themes thrive.
Without the crazy Mad Max car stunts or Terminator fights found in other dystopian stories, Chaos Walking loses some key elements that make those films so entertaining. The film succeeds better with its serious themes that address issues we live with now. Like the men from the future, many of us feel too much unfiltered noise coming at us from all sorts of social media platforms. Chaos Walking was released in movie theaters this week.
Robin Holabird is KUNR's entertainment reviewer, author, and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office.