With their 1969 hit “In the Year 2525,” Zager and Evans speculated on future life: “if man is still alive/if woman can survive.” In “Chaos Walking,” it’s the year 2257, man is not-quite-thriving on a new planet, and woman is not around at all. In a place called Prentisstown, all the males try to manage their “noise” — that is, their thought, given audible and visible form, for sci-fi reasons — while maintaining a semblance of civilized life.
Into this challenging environment falls a young woman. The sensitive P-Towner Todd (Tom Holland) notices her in part because women have no noise. He’s drawn to her silence.
If these sci-fi metaphors sound heavy-handed in print (the movie is adapted from a Y.A. novel by Patrick Ness), they’re practically oppressive in cinematic form. The young woman, Viola (Daisy Ridley), is from a larger spaceship filled with a second wave of potential colonizers, who can presumably straighten out life on this new world. Prentisstown’s mayor, who lends the town his name and is played by Mads Mikkelsen — so, by American film standards at least, you know he’s got a bad agenda — doesn’t want Viola to make contact with her comrades.
The metaphors and what we’ll call the noise-to-signal ratio aside, “Chaos Walking” is standard issue roughing-it-in-a-dystopia stuff. Players in differing grades of vintage costuming and varied beard lengths chase the younger characters through rugged terrain and commit mayhem with weaponry both futuristic and crude.
Because the director is Doug Liman, these motions are gone through with high competence. But the action buries the charms of its two lead players and mutes the talents of the distinguished supporting cast, which also includes Demián Bichir, David Oyelowo and Cynthia Erivo.
Rated PG-13 for boy meets only girl in town material, violence and language. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.