‘Chaos Walking’ had me walking away confused

Caitlyn Dieckmann 

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3/5 stars for the plot. 5/5 stars for the acting. 

     For my first movie theater experience in over a year, I can happily say I was content with the atmosphere and the feeling of sitting in a comfy seat in front of a giant screen. “Chaos Walking” was an obvious pick among the limited choices.  

     The sci-fi film centers on a town of settlers sent on a 65-year generational trip from Earth, except for Tod (Tom Holland), who was born on the New World planet. A second mission of space travelers from Earth sends a pod of individuals to the planet to check for viability and send back confirmation to the main ship in order to land for further colonization.  

     However, the planet has a force that makes only male individuals’ thoughts seen and heard.  

     The action begins when the mysterious girl Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash lands in her pod. She is looking for a way to get a message back to the main ship; otherwise, they will leave her stranded. Viola, unfortunately, falls upon a settlement made entirely of men, and only Tod is willing to help and protect her.  

     To begin this review, I must make my biases known. 

     First, I am the biggest Tom Holland fan, and I absolutely love Daisy Ridley — both of whom play the protagonists of the film. Secondly, science fiction holds a special place in my heart, and this is the film’s main genre. 

     My main criticism is that the film has little background to set up the story, so viewers are left very confused for the first 30 minutes, unless they read the book, but I was not one of those people. Having a narrator at the beginning or a word summary to help set the scene would have worked well for this film, but it didn’t have either. 

     While it took a while to catch on, the creativity of the story is excellent, so I do recommend this movie to anyone wanting good, thought-provoking science fiction. This is meant with no pun-intended, of course, as the film is based on a premise that the New World planet causes only male thoughts to be known and heard, while the female sex’s thoughts are completely guarded. 

     My second biggest criticism is that the movie makes indirect sexist comments, and I am not sure if these were purposeful or not. 

     For example, the mayor of the main settlement at the center of the film has the ability to control thoughts well, so no one can hear what he is thinking at times. The preacher singles him out and says that the mayor is like a woman in how he can guard his thoughts so well — indicating he is weak.  

     On one hand, this comment makes me cringe at the film, but on the other hand, it could be a statement meant to anger the audience and foreshadow the preacher as a prominent antagonist meant to attack Viola later in the film. 

     The film could benefit by making the purpose of these subtle comments clearer. Again, it would make sense to have them, as the main conflict surrounds a settlement of men that killed all of their women. Just more clarity would make the film better.  

     “Chaos Walking” left me with more questions and concerns than I wanted, and — spoiler alert — a dog dies, which was unnecessary. 

     Also, how did the settlement keep the secret of how all the women disappeared from Tod? If all their thoughts are easily known, someone would have slipped up at some point. Unless the mayor has prominent mind control skills, which leads me to my next question. 

     Does the mayor have mind control skills? He can hide his thoughts better than any other man, and he can to skip into others’ thoughts. But this isn’t made clear in the film.  

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

     Why did the mayor want to kill off the main settlement’s women? You would think that in a survival situation, in which these characters were in, that our human instincts would keep in mind the reproductive value of women, at least if they were to be seen as having no other use. If the mayor was able to control the settlers’ minds, which is hinted at in a conflict scene between the preacher and Viola, then this makes me wonder what caused the mayor to want all women dead. 

     Why are female thoughts not on display like the males’? This is a more general question for the plot of the film, but it is important.  

     Are the native beings of the planet good guys or bad guys? They were blamed for the killing of the women in the first settlement, but once Tod finds out the real reason why the women were gone, this question is left up in the air. 

     How were the settlers stranded with no communication between themselves and future colonizers or space travelers? The first spaceship to land on the planet is seen later in the film when Tod and Viola are running away from the rest of the settlers. They are able to fix the antenna to get a message to the spaceship from which Viola came. So, why wasn’t this a thought of the settlers when the original mission landed/crashed?  

     Finally, the film’s many cliff hangers and strings left untied make me wonder whether there should be a second film? The movie is based on the book trilogy of the same name, so all of these unanswered questions would make more sense if answered in another film.  

     While the film had numerous critical parts, I am happy to say that Holland and Ridley’s acting made the unbelievable aspects feel real and possibly saved the movie from being a terrible flop. Films with too many cliffhangers should never do well, but this film can be an exception due to the phenomenal casting choice.