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Doug Liman did it again. By "again," I mean directing a film that has suffered numerous rewritings, re-shoots, and / or delays while it turns out to be at least pretty good. Matt Damon's The Bourne Identity was a notoriously troubled production that became a zeitgeist-defining bang. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Mr. and Mrs. Smith were a high point of star power in mid-2000. Edge of Tomorrow is also considered one of Tom Cruise's best action blockbuster films, while Locked Down is one of the better "Shots During the Pandemic" Movies is. In this story, it's both a surprise and not too surprising that Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley's Chaos Walking are a good YA fantasy.
Originally scheduled for March 1, 2019, the YA Fantasy was shot back in late 2017 and re-shot for several weeks after poor test screenings. The re-admissions, led by Fede Alvarez (Don't Breathe), took place in April and May 2019 (later than hoped based on Tom Holland's Spider-Man engagements and Daisy Ridley's Star Wars engagements), adding to the 85- Million Dollar Movie to $ 100 Million. While at least some of the delays in the cinema's release are related to Covid, that's not the whole story. To his credit, I couldn't tell you what was added. The film as it exists works like a uniquely cohesive and largely entertaining fantasy adventure.

Based on Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting go, the film 2257 is set on a colonized planet where A) all women have apparently been killed by indigenous threats and B) men are affected by "The Noise", which gets everything under control Thoughts on the display. Tom Holland plays Todd Hewitt, an inconspicuous but morally decent young man who is cared for for the lead by Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen, who enjoys his unapologetically extravagant wardrobe). Enter Viola Eade (Daisy Ridley), a crash-landing survivor who poses a threat (and a threat) to the peace established. Todd and Hewitt eventually run away in hopes of finding a crashed ship and sending out a distress signal.

The plot eventually thickens in the final hour (the film only runs a meager 109 minutes), and none of the revelations or surprises are meant to be that surprising, just a confirmation of what we presumably assumed. Like The Maze Runner, it's amusingly a YA fantasy film (a subgenre more aimed at young women) that's almost entirely a sausage festival. I will note again that a YA fantasy film "Made for Girls" is much darker, more cynical and violent than a conventional superhero film. Chaos Walking serves as entertainment for meat and potatoes, one that luckily doesn't end on a cliffhanger, for a sequel that will likely never come.

A game cast adds to the material, including Demián Bichir and Kurt Sutter as Todd's adoptive fathers, who A) can be a same-sex couple and B) offer gravitas and pathos with limited screen time. David Oyelowo has indulgent fun as a violent religious leader, while (slight spoilers) Cynthia Erivo collects a simple paycheck as the leader of a comparatively peaceful settlement in the New World. Mikkelsen mostly avoids camp, while Holland is considered a morally decent guy who still wants to be more conventional macho than he actually is. Ridley adds as much depth as possible to her stick character, while the film doesn't beat her relative uniqueness.

Aside from this “We can hear men's minds” variation represented by multi-colored clouds and copious amounts of voice-over, Chaos Walking is an otherwise grounded, super-powered action fantasy (a futuristic weapon is still a weapon). The "Thoughts heard or seen" gimmick is surprisingly well integrated, both for cringe comedy (Todd is understandably enthusiastic about Viola) and for suspense, as our hero avoids revealing important information just by thinking. The film makes the most of its real-world locations (Quebec, Scotland, and Iceland, with the re-shoots done in Atlanta), hands-on stunt work, and old-school fistuffs. Once again, the YA flick “Made for Girls” is much more violent and much darker than a conventional “male” superhero film.
For one miracle, Chaos Walking is not going to spawn a new franchise. That, despite its production history and the challenges that come with it, it's pretty decent

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