Rating: 4 out of 5.

The next big young-adult film series may be on the horizon. Chaos Walking blends dated ideas about gender dynamics with thrilling, intricately-staged set pieces. An exciting ensemble cast led by a naive, energetic performance from Tom Holland keeps the film from ever dragging. Undoubtedly, the sci-fi action thriller shares DNA with other big YA hits, like Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. Chaos Walking has several gripping scenes, and the script carefully fleshes out the complex narrative. Chaos Walking is based on the young-adult sci-fi novel, The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Taking place in the year 2257, Chaos Walking is set on an alien planet named ‘New World.’ We follow Todd (Tom Holland) as he comes of age, trying to control ‘The Noise.’ ‘The Noise’ is, in essence, the voices and images you see in your head, only outwardly. Everyone can see what you’re thinking the second the idea takes shape. The biggest oddity found in ‘New World’ settlement Prentisstown is the lack of women, all of whom are said to be long gone. After Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash-lands on the strange planet, Todd goes on the run with the first girl he’s ever laid eyes on. Together, they must survive and explore a way for Viola to communicate with her people. 

All the yelling and muttering in each character’s mind personified are initially overwhelming. ‘The Noise’ takes some getting used to, especially in the beginning stretch. It’s a concept that takes at least ten minutes of runtime or more to get a grasp on, and as the movie gets deeper, more layers are revealed to the quirk itself. This aspect of the story may be difficult to follow for viewers not paying full attention. Once the film establishes ‘The Noise’ as intricately as possible, it becomes significantly easier to follow. Several surprising elements, like the power to use the mind imagery as trickery, are cleverly executed.

The combined eye candy of Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, and Nick Jonas, always keeps things interesting. Holland, in particular, is charismatic and adorable. His chops through the adventure are no doubt an excellent appetizer for Holland’s upcoming Uncharted. Todd is a character so hilariously naive that he’s incapable of talking to a woman on any real kind of level. Following his path from quietly-blushing follower to confident and headstrong adventurer is one of Chaos Walking’s finest assists. Daisy Ridley is (mostly) the sole female presence throughout; Viola is complex and determined. The budding romance that develops between Todd and Viola feels genuine. I appreciated the addition of gay dads for Todd. It added an extra layer of authenticity to an all-male colony. A beloved pet is dispatched in a jarring, upsetting way. The villains are downright despicable and left me rooting for their impending defeat. The gender ideas definitely don’t feel fresh, but they occasionally hit the perfect balance.

Already existing in the form of a trilogy of books, Chaos Walking is hopefully the first in a film series. The way we leave the characters left me craving more. I want to see this world expand even further and spend more time with the characters. It’s clear that author Patrick Ness, who also co-wrote the film’s script with Christopher Ford, was laying the groundwork for the bigger picture. Suspenseful, harrowing, and bold, Chaos Walking isn’t a movie overflowing with originality. Yet the way it embraces action-movie cliche, while carving out a unique futuristic vision is something to behold. Engaging performances and mystery elements tie it all together nicely with a pretty little bow on top. Tom Holland fanboys will be in literal heaven. Chaos Walking hits theaters nationwide on Friday, March 5th. 

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