CS Soapbox: Will Doug Liman’s Chaos Walking Ever Be Released?
Author Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy follows Todd Hewitt, who grows up in a dystopian future where there are no women (or so he believes). A supposed pathogen whipped out all of the women in his colony world and released Noise—the ability to hear the thoughts of every living being. *Spoiler alert* Women are not gone; Hewitt runs into Viola Eade, who is not only a girl but a source of silence. Together, Hewitt and attempt to figure out the true nature of their world.
The first book in that trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go came out in 2008, Lionsgate bought the distribution rights in 2011 and in 2016 they announced they were ready to adapt the popular young adult novels into a series of films. Doug Liman was on hand to direct and Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley were set to star as the main protagonists. It was a picture-perfect investment for Lionsgate, a YA film the likes of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Twilight, and Divergent starring two immensely popular up and coming thespians—dollar signs laced the eyelids of everyone involved.
The first film in their planned series, appropriately titled Chaos Walking, filmed way back in 2017. At the time, it was scheduled to release in theaters on March 1, 2019. Had Chaos Walking released last March, just think about the year Holland and Ridley would have had (assuming the movie was any good); Holland’s Spider-Man Far from Home and Spies in Disguise released last year as well as Ridley’s final entry in the Skywalker saga. Chaos Walking was/is presumably their next big franchise—job security—a firestorm of bottle rockets lit beneath the rear of their careers. Unfortunately for them (and everyone else involved), Chaos Walking’s post-production schedule derailed.
In April of 2018, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the movie had been scheduled for “significant reshoots.” While reshoots are not uncommon, Holland and Ridley’s busy schedules made those reshoots particularly difficult. On top of that, the film was deemed “unreleasable” by studio executives who had watched an initial cut. The high-anxiety reshoots ended up occurring in early 2019 and the studio announced vague plans to release Chaos Walking sometime in 2020.
Even if Chaos Walking doesn’t release this year, it will see the light of day…eventually. It cost over $100 million to make, that’s not an investment thrown in the draft pile. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Lionsgate’s chief executive Jon Feltheimer has stood behind the film in the past, saying, “we [wouldn’t have shot] more if we didn’t think we could make it work.” Director Liman appears to be just as passionate about the project as Feltheimer, calling it his most creatively challenging film to date and stressing the fact that the reshoots were not a complete restructuring of the film, focusing only on key moments. This is good news for anyone worried that the novel’s mind-reading element might have appeared disastrous and schizophrenic on screen.
There has been no word on Chaos Walking since last summer. Liman, who is no stranger to problematic productions— having been fired from The Bourne Identity and shooting Edge of Tomorrow without an ending—is most likely hard at work in the editing room. Will we see something this year? A trailer maybe? A better question is whether or not all of this trouble will be worth it. YA films are not as hot as they used to be. All of the promise Chaos Walking had in 2016 may not have survived the last 4 years.
Back in 2012, when The Hunger Games trilogy began its adaptations, YA films were all the rage. In the wake of the Harry Potter franchise, which single-handedly made set made YA films a cornerstone of theater-going, movies like The Hunger Games took up its mantle. Now, not so much. An argument can be made that the focus as shifted to superhero films; The Divergent Series (which felt like a blatant rip-off of The Hunger Games) isn’t even moving forward with Ascendant, the final film in the series. It was canceled due to a lack of interest from its cast. However, The Maze Runner film series has done well for itself, being a financial success. After acquiring 20th Century Fox, Disney has even said they have plans for more Maze Runner films. On top of this Suzanne Collins is writing a Hunger Games prequel called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, set 64 years before the events of the original books (which will get made into a film).
YA films could make a comeback and hopefully, Chaos Walking paves the way. Audiences will always show up to watch stories they love and Ness’ novels are beloved. As long as Liman and company do the source material justice, they could/should strike gold with their new franchise. We just might not see it until 2021. If they don’t strike gold, well, then this 4-5 journey was all just a huge waste of time.