I cannot remember the last time I watched a movie as disappointing as Chaos Walking. Knowing that the film is based on the popular teen novel The Knife of Letting Go, I expected an exciting dystopian story about a young man learning that his village leadership harbors secrets. The storyline, however, proves overly simplistic and lackluster, while the characters are undeveloped–as is the romance. Even some fine acting by Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland could not save the film. Chaos Walking is undoubtedly a flop.
Not having read The Knife of Letting Go, I cannot compare the book with the movie adaptation. I can say, however, that the movie made me reconsider my plans to one day read The Knife of Letting Go. Even though dystopian YA books still feel redundant, thanks to the craze for them after the release of The Hunger Games, Chaos Walking shocked me with how simple, unoriginal, and unsurprising the plot is. I knew the big twist about ten minutes into the movie. And what is the point of a dystopian novel if not to surprise readers, along with the protagonist, with some big, terrible truth about the world?
That truth, too, typically says something interesting or important about society, but if there is a message in Chaos Walking, I did not see it. In theory, one should be able to say something insightful about groupthink or mob mentality or even misogyny. But the movie never reaches far enough to provoke thought in the audience. And, in the final moment, it devolves all responsibility for tragedy onto the figure of one man, instead of saying something, too, about the men he led astray.
Chaos Walking is a slow-paced, boring film with a predictable plot and no real depth. I wanted to feel something for the characters, but they are never developed enough for audiences to really sympathize with them, their dreams, and their desires. A half-baked romance/infatuation completes the mess. I would not recommend this film for viewing, nor would I suggest that the producers try for a sequel.