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With Chaos Walking and Edge of Tomorrow 2 Doug Liman Delivers the Gender-Balanced Sci-Fi Teams We Need

Doug Liman’s body of work is really, really eclectic. The same guy who directed Swingers and Go also directed The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow. Now, he’s currently gone into production on Chaos Walking, a YA genre story, and is developing Edge of Tomorrow 2, both of which have intriguing women at their centers.

Daisy Ridley, who stars in Chaos Walking along with Tom Holland, excitedly posted the above photo on her Facebook page. The film is based on the YA novel The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness (most recently the writer of A Monster Calls, and the sadly short-lived Doctor Who spin-off, Class) which is the first in a trilogy of Chaos Walking novels.

As described by Collider, “takes place in a world devoid of women, where all living creatures can hear one another’s thoughts “in a stream of images, words and sounds called Noice.” When a young boy suddenly stumbles upon a silent young girl, the two set off on a dangerous journey full of twists and turns.”

While this role may not be adding to all those studies that measure the actual words that female characters have in screenplays, you don’t generally get someone of Ridley’s skill and star power to play a BS role. I’ve never read the Chaos Walking series (though I now want to), but I imagine that her character is instrumental in whatever adventure these two characters have, possibly even being the key to where all the women went and why Noice exists.

However, the official synopsis for the book is definitely more boy-focused:

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Here’s hoping that the film is more even-handed in its treatment of the two characters. Judging by the casting, I think it will be.

Liman will be serving up another nuanced woman in sci-fi, too. This time, for a more grown-up audience. Despite the initial lukewarm reception at the box office, Edge of Tomorrow became a huge success via home video, thanks in no small part to Emily Blunt’s performance as what has become one of my favorite characters in all of sci-fi: Rita Vrataski.

Now, we have a sequel to look forward to, and in a recent Collider interview with Liman about his current Tom Cruise film, American Made, the interviewer asked him about the status of Edge of Tomorrow 2, which will be called Live, Die, Repeat, and Repeat. Here’s what he had to say:

Tom and Emily [Blunt] and I are really excited to go do it. We have a script. We’re just trying to find a time to schedule it, between my schedule and Emily’s and Tom’s. But it’s one of these things where it’s a sequel whose origins come from the best possible place, which is, it’s not a studio saying, ‘Hey, we think we can make some more money. Let’s just stamp out another one.’ This sequel originated with fans of the original film who continually came up to Tom and myself and Emily and told us how much they loved the movie and would we ever consider a sequel. And enough people said that to me and to Tom and to Emily that we finally sat down and said, ‘What would a sequel even look like?’ We ended up with Chris McQuarrie coming up with a great story.

One of the things that I love about Edge of Tomorrow that I hope is true of Chaos Walking as well as Live, Die, Repeat, and Repeat is that it depicts a deep, close partnership between a man and a woman in sci-fi that isn’t entirely dependent or focused on romance. Just because something is YA doesn’t mean that any male and female characters that come into each others’ orbit need to be romantically involved. I know that’s how it’s generally done, but that doesn’t mean that’s the way it needs to continue to be.

Here’s to gender-balanced sci-fi partnerships based on mutual respect and friendship, and here’s hoping that Liman can continue to deliver those relationships in a nuanced way.

(image: Lionsgate)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former Mary Sue assistant editor from 2015-18. Teresa's returned to play in the TMS sandbox as a freelancer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.