Chaos Walking

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Chaos Walking Movie Poster Image
Disappointing, violent adaptation of acclaimed YA book.
  • PG-13
  • 2021
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 16 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Encourages communication, teamwork, perseverance. Just because a thought occurs to you doesn't mean you have to act on it. Your thoughts matter, but they don't define you.  

Positive Role Models

Todd can be reckless and misguided, but he's brave and selfless when it comes to defending those he cares about. His fathers each sacrifice their own safety to help him. Viola is enterprising, intelligent, skilled. She's brave and learns to deal with Todd's Noise and not to judge him for every single thought that pops into his head. 

Violence

Lots of violent scenes, most including futuristic guns/blasters. Knife and hand-to-hand fighting. Mercy killing of an injured horse off camera (the shot is heard). A dog is purposely drowned. An angry man repeatedly tries to grab and hurt Viola. A man slaps Todd, who's also shot at and shown bleeding. Several characters die on camera from gunshot wounds. One man seems to plunge to his death, another is set on fire and dies. 

Sex

Todd imagines kissing Viola more than once (the thoughts are projected), and she says "I'm not going to kiss you." He also keeps thinking about how pretty she is or how her "yellow hair" looks. They do eventually kiss. Nonsexual partial undressing: Since he doesn't realize it's odd to change in front of a girl, Todd strips his clothes off to hunt in a body of water; viewers see his lower back and quick glimpse of the top of his butt (it's implied that Viola sees him fully naked). He also wakes up shirtless in one scene.

Language

Lots of use of "s--t" ("dumb s--t," "holy s--t," "stupid s--t," and insult "s--t shoveler"), as well as "son of a bitch," "pr--k," "what the hell," "beat his ass," "kicked his ass," "damn," "crap," "oh my God," and "hell." Sexist insults: "you're weak, like a woman," "you hide your thoughts like a woman."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chaos Walking is based on Patrick Ness' 2008 young adult dystopian/sci-fi novel The Knife of Never Letting Go. Spider-Man's Tom Holland stars as Todd, a teen living in Prentisstown, an all-male colony on a planet where a disease/phenomenon known as the Noise caused all of men's thoughts to be heard or projected. The human women were all killed by the planet's native inhabitants, so when a young woman named Viola (Daisy Ridley) is the only person to survive a scouting ship's crash landing, her presence wreaks havoc on Prentisstown and endangers her and Todd. While it has themes of communication, teamwork, and perseverance, violence and peril drive the story: The men of Prentisstown are armed, dangerous, and ready to kill. Characters are shot, threatened, injured, and even set on fire. Characters die on camera. An armed man makes menacing overtures toward a woman that seem like a prelude to sexual violence. Two animals are killed: One is shot out of mercy, while the other is murdered in anger. There's also a lot of strong language, much of it in the men's heard/projected thoughts, particularly variations on the word "s--t." Todd frequently thinks about how pretty Viola is and imagines kissing her more than once. In one scene when he takes off his clothes to hunt in the water, viewers see his lower back and a quick glimpse of the top of his butt.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byZoeQuill271 March 11, 2021

Amazing!

This movie was amazing, my 11 year old daughter and her friends went to see it and loved it! It was perfect for them. (They love action filed stuff) There wasn... Continue reading
Adult Written byHarkness March 14, 2021

Great movie

My kids were not excited when I told then what we were watching. But at the end they were so happy now I have to order the books for then.
Teen, 16 years old Written bylivibug_02 March 14, 2021

Didn't follow the books at all, but was still a pretty good movie...

I have read the 3 books in the Chaos Walking series and I really, really enjoyed them. I had very high expectations for this movie due to my love of the books a... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bytomholland1996 March 6, 2021

Chaos walking

honestly loved the film, must see movie in my perspective. especially being a huge star wars and marvel fan it was great seeing Tom Holland and Daisey Ridley co... Continue reading

What's the story?

CHAOS WALKING is based on the first book in Patrick Ness' acclaimed YA sci-fi trilogy. It takes place in a distant future in which humans have escaped Earth to colonize other planets. Todd (Tom Holland) lives in a remote village called Prentisstown on one planet, where a mysterious condition has affected only the men: In a phenomenon known as the Noise, their every thought can be heard or displayed. Todd is the youngest man in Prentisstown because the planet's native species killed all the women when he was a baby. One day Todd stumbles upon a young woman named Viola (Daisy Ridley), the sole survivor of a scouting ship's crash landing. He alerts the town leader, Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), who keeps her for questioning. The men's Noise alerts Viola that she's in danger, so she escapes, and Todd decides to help her. Todd's adoptive fathers (Demian Bichir, Kurt Sutter) reveal that Todd and Viola must leave for Farbranch, the next town over, a place Todd didn't even know existed. Prentisstown has an ugly secret, his father explains, and Todd and Viola must make it out in order to survive. 

Is it any good?

What worked on the page doesn't work on the screen in this adaptation, despite the stellar cast and fascinating source material. It's remarkable what an impressive ensemble director Doug Liman assembled for this movie. In addition to all the actors already mentioned, there's Cynthia Erivo as the mayor of Prentisstown's neighboring town, David Oyelowo as Prentisstown's sole spiritual leader Aaron, character actor Ray McKinnon in a supporting role, and Nick Jonas as Mayor Prentiss' son, Davy. When Chaos Walking was first announced, it seemed like the project had so much promise. But ultimately it's not an easy story to translate because of the Noise and because of the various subplots that took Ness three books to address but that aren't explained at all here. It should also be noted that, as with the Percy Jackson movies, the main characters are aged up several years. (In the book, they were just 13.)

Fans of Ness' series will be more disappointed by the adaptation than those who've never read the books, but, either way, there's no nuance here and no time to really get to know the characters or their motivations. Rather than revealing and compelling as written in the books, in the movie, the Noise is downright annoying. Todd also seems whiny and immature when played by an actor older than the character was in the story. Because they speed through their journey, Todd and Viola don't have the same time to explore how different towns handled the Noise and how the gender dynamics could have worked had women survived in Prentisstown. Also, as rushed as some parts of the movie are, the pacing and editing are uneven, perhaps the result of the movie's many re-shoots. Even the end feels tacked on and ambiguous, even though it's fairly unlikely that the other books in the series will ever be adapted as sequels. It's a shame that, given all the talent involved, the movie fails to deliver.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Chaos Walking. Is it necessary to the story? Does violence against animals impact viewers differently than violence against or between humans?

  • How to Todd and Viola demonstrate communicationperseverance, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

  • Discuss the gender roles in the movie. Why do you think women are so threatening to Prentisstown and its environs? 

  • If you're familiar with the book series that the movie is based on: What changes do you think worked in the adaptation, and what did you miss from the book?

  • The movie, which initially began shooting in 2017, was plagued with so many publicized issues that the release kept getting pushed back. Did you know about that? Did it affect your opinion of the movie?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi thrills

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate