Whenever we go out to see a movie rooted in popular literature, it’s natural to hold the book next to its source and compare the two. And as far as book adaptations go, the Chaos Walking movie does have a major upper hand. The script was co-written by the author himself, Patrick Ness, who previously adapted his other popular story A Monster Calls for the 2016 film by J.A. Bayona. Even so, the 2008 bestselling novel and the Lionsgate film starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland have quite a few differences between them to discuss.
Doug Liman’s sci-fi release Chaos Walking is based on a novel called The Knife of Never Letting Go, which is the first of three books in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy. Even though the movie has often been characterized for its reshoots, delays or its pretty negative critic reviews, the Chaos Walking book vs. movie conversation is one that primarily complements each other.
If you watched the movie first, a read of the book will enrich its source concept and bring more enjoyment to the film after the fact. If you were a fan of the books, you’ll likely appreciate seeing Chaos Walking come to life the way it did. Either way, take heed of SPOILERS ahead for Chaos Walking, though we won’t go too much in detail for your benefit. Let’s get into it! Here’s the biggest differences between the movie and book:
Todd Hewitt And Viola Eade Are Younger Characters
In the first Chaos Walking novel, Todd Hewitt says he is “twelve years and twelve months old” at the start of the book, and his age is referenced throughout the book since once he turns thirteen he will be considered a man in Prentisstown. Viola is thought to be around the same age. However, Tom Holland cannot pass as a 12-year-old in the movie. The actor was about 20 when the film was initially shot back in 2017 and Ridley was 24, but they seem to be portraying older teens. It's okay though, Holland and Ridley play them beautifully!
The Noise Allows Animals To Speak Their Thoughts Too
The Chaos Walking movie thankfully keeps Todd’s dog Manchee in the storyline and their storyline plays out how it does in the book, except in The Knife of Never Letting Go, Manchee is part of the Noise and often speaks to Todd, either to warn or comfort him throughout the film. Other animals’ thoughts throughout the movie can also the movie, such as Todd hearing crickets think about sex or one scene about a herd of animals singing to each other. When CinemaBlend spoke to Patrick Ness, he told us that it was one major aspect of the book he missed with these words:
The only scene that I really miss is there’s a scene in the book when they are in a herd of giant creatures and all the creatures are just saying ‘here’ to another. It’s a peaceful, wooly mammoth kind of thing, just a moment of rest and just because the way a movie has to propel and function, there just wasn’t room for it, but that’s okay. I always say, a movie is a remix of the book, so you can’t have everything. So one day, one day that will be on screen.
Ness’ words about the adaptation being a “remix” to the book is a good analogy to take with us as we continue to talk about the differences too!
Todd’s First Confrontation With The Spackle
In the Chaos Walking trilogy, the Spackle, the native species of the planet Todd and Viola are on, are an important aspect of the series. In the movie, the Spackle gets about five minutes of screen time and it's during Todd’s brief fight sequence with the alien creature. It feels pretty random in the movie, but in the book it's Todd’s first confrontation with the species and he ends up killing it despite feelings of fear in its Noise. It’s an important moment in the book when Todd commits the murder out of his own fear of being a coward, whilst in the movie it’s just a pretty inconsequential action moment.
Viola’s Character Arc Is More Defined And Powerful
One of the biggest missed opportunities in the Chaos Walking is to give Daisy Ridley the three-dimensional character arc from The Knife of Letting Go. In the movie, Viola feels like a pretty reactionary character who is following Todd and trusting her instincts along the way. But in the book, she has a more impressive story arc. When she first crosses paths with Todd, she is completely taken aback by the world she’s landed on and overwhelmed by the Noise. She doesn’t talk for the first few chapters, but as the book progresses, she begins to become a partner to Todd that he needs and challenges his views and that of Prentisstown. She’s much more complicated and fleshed out in the novel.
Nick Jonas’ Character Is A Lot More Important To Chaos Walking
Another one of the more regretful switch ups to Chaos Walking, likely cut down for time was Nick Jonas’ adaptation of Davy Prentiss Jr., the son of Mads Mikkelsen’s Mayor Prentiss. Jonas was not given a lot to work with in the movie itself, but in the book, Davy is a great character who serves as a great foil to Todd despite both of them having the same upbringing. He represents Todd’s fears and how he’s “supposed to be” as a man Prentisstown and the two have a much more epic and emotional face-off in the novel.
Viola Gets Kidnapped By Aaron Instead Of The River Raft Scene
If you felt the third act of the Chaos Walking movie was rushed, it most definitely was, especially in comparison to what goes down in the book. It’s understandable. There’s a lot going on in the book for the movie to cover in just two hours. In the book, Todd and Viola are being chased by all sides, with the angry preacher Aaron being one particularly menacing one that leads to Aaron kidnapping Viola, and Todd looking for her, which leads to her escape and the sad death of Manchee. In the movie, it's condensed to a tense river raft sequence where Aaron taunts them and kills poor Manchee in the process.
The End Of Chaos Walking
Going hand in hand with the hurried third act of Chaos Walking as a movie is a few notable changes to the movie not found in the book. One major plot point of both is Viola needing to contact her ship and in the movie she successfully does so by the end of Chaos Walking. But, in the novels, this doesn’t happen until the second book. Then, there’s a lot that happens on the abandoned ship they use for communication in the film, such as Viola killing him so she can contact said ship, but in the book she does it so Todd doesn’t have more blood on his hands. Plus, in the movie Mads Mikkelsen’s Mayor villain seems to have died in a final face off between him and Todd, perhaps with the possibility of surviving his plummet? But in the books, the Mayor takes over all of the New World, leading into a bigger plotline for him in the rest of the trilogy.
While I think Chaos Walking could have benefitted from a longer runtime to flesh out some of the major differences in the novel we missed in the movie, overall the film does do an adequate job of keeping the novel’s story intact. It leaves room to go back to the novel and enjoy its additional sequences and context, and go back to the movie for its action and visual elements. What do you think about the changes made to the film? Vote in the poll below!