Of the main characters from the original Star Wars trilogy, outside of Harrison Ford, how many different movies can you name in which they have appeared, much less had a starring role? I will give you a moment to Google. . . . Back? I am sure you found some films, but how many had you actually known? Many of you might have known already that Fisher was in The Blue Brothers (1980), though that was more of a cameo, but a hilarious one. What about Mark Hamill in the World War II epic The Big Red One (1980)? Does that ring a bell? No? Maybe you recall that Billy Dee Williams played Harvey Dent in the 1989 Batman? Still nothing? If you have not heard of those films or roles before, do not be too hard on yourselves. There is a somewhat infamous curse for many of the actors who played in Star Wars and their careers afterwards, that simply being that they are relatively obscure. Here is hoping that the same does not turn out to be true for those in the most recent trilogy in the franchise. It does not seem to be affecting them so far, though I am sure no one will remember Chaos Walking in twenty years, or constructing areas of amusement parks themed to this movie.
Chaos Walking stars an actor from another franchise, that being Tom Holland as Todd Hewitt. He is the youngest man in a colony of people from Earth on a distant planet unimaginatively called New World. Actually, there is a whole subplot that goes virtually unexplored involving the race of people already living there and colonization. The historical comparisons are there to be made, but since the film does not go into them (call it insensitivity if you wish) then neither will I. What it does focus on is the ability granted only to the men there to be able to project their thoughts, both audibly and with images. They refer to this ability as “the Noise.” It is noisy, because few people can seem to shut off the ongoing inner monologue in their brains. Try it some time, or now if you like. Give up? No shame. It has taken some religions centuries to get it right. Back to the movie. Okay, so the men have this ability, but the women do not. Trouble is, there are no women, until one shows up in a crashed spaceship near Todd’s settlement. How they neither saw nor heard this event is a bit puzzling, but who should find the wreckage but, you guessed it, our innocent Todd. He does so because the sole survivor is our Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley as Viola Eade, and she is caught stealing by Todd from his farm. Because Todd is eager to impress his town’s mayor, the scarred David Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), Todd turns her over to the mayor. Prentiss begins questioning the girl, asking about where she came from and whether or not there was a ship in orbit. Naturally, she wants to know where all the women are, and she is given a story about a war with the locals who massacred all the females. He is also adept at calming his thoughts so that others cannot see them. Either way, Viola feels threatened and manages to escape. Because Todd is our main character, or because he is attracted to Viola, either explanation works, he attempts to save her. He is supported in this endeavor by his surrogate father(s), the principle one being Ben Moore (Demián Bichir). It is this figure who reveals what is truly going on in their colony, with their preacher Aaron (David Oyelowo) being completely bonkers as a result of the Noise, seeing it as a gift from God, and that women were cursed for not having it. Thus he convinced his fellow colonists to murder all the women. Additionally, Prentiss sees Viola’s ship as an opportunity to gain more power and rule the planet. This is, perhaps, the flimsiest part of the movie, but more on that later. The rest of the movie is a chase, with Todd and Viola attempting to find a transmitter somewhere to send a message to her ship to warn them about the situation on the planet, and staying one step ahead of Prentiss and his men. It all comes to a head when they make it to the derelict hulk of the first colony ship, which somehow still has enough power to get off Viola’s transmission. There is the inevitable showdown between Prentiss and Todd, good guys win, bad guys lose, the new colony ship lands, and the film ends with Todd and Viola aboard it.
There are several things wrong with Chaos Walking, ranging from minor irritations to major plot holes. For example, if you think people are annoying as they are, try listening to their thoughts for an hour and a half. I am Todd Hewitt. I am Todd Hewitt. I am Todd Hewitt. I am Todd Hewitt. I am Todd Hewitt. This is what Todd repeats in his head whenever he does not want another man to know what he is really thinking, but it never works. So often does he fail with this technique, it begs the question: why bother? Also, if the men aboard Viola’s drop ship went nuts when they began to hear people’s thoughts, leading to their crash, why did the same thing not happen when the big one came down? I guess her message might have prepared them, but then again, why go through with it in the first place since it has clearly led to a fractured colonial society? Additionally, there are useless characters that wander in and out of the film to no true purpose other than, hey, I am here to say something to advance the plot and then I am going to do nothing for the rest of the film. I am looking at you, David Prentiss, Jr. (Nick Jonas). And then there is the biggest head-scratcher of them all: how Prentiss and his twenty or thirty men expect to rule an entire planet. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why this was made part of the story.
This also includes the worst character in Chaos Walking, which is Aaron. There are multiple ways in which this character is despicable. For many, the worst is when he drowns Todd’s dog, Manchee. Come on, movie! Was that truly necessary? I was already perturbed by the fact that it was depicting the sole representative of the Christian faith as a murdering lunatic. But did he also have to kill the dog? At least we do not see him for the rest of the film after this act, and yet we do not see him get his just desserts. And yet again we have another instance of Hollywood viewing evangelical believers of God as these crazy people who are willing to resort to the most extreme acts in pursuing their twisted views of God. To be fair, there have been some moments in history where a preacher has led his flock to their doom. However, the likes and Jim Jones and David Koresh do not represent the broad swath of believers. Here is a tip: if you encounter someone who claims that they want to kill somebody in the name of God, avoid that person. Could God theoretically tell somebody to murder another? Of course, and Abraham was about to sacrifice his own son before He intervened and stayed Abraham’s hand. In sum, that simply is not God. All life is precious and loved by Him. That is the first principle of Christianity, no matter what films like this one will tell you.
Cameron got to see Raya and the Last Dragon, and I saw the train wreck that is Chaos Walking. I suppose I should have known this was going to be the case based on the title and just walked away from it instead of entering the theater. Cameron usually takes the animated films because he is more likely to give them a fair review. As for the one I saw, I obviously do not give it my recommendation. Aside from the nonsense described above, there is an extraordinary amount of cursing for a film that is rated PG-13. If you are a die-hard science fiction fan, then . . . maybe? But then I come back to the dog dying, and that trumps any glimmer of hope for this movie.