Review: The Maze Runner
PLOT: When a young man named Thomas is quite literally deposited in a sort of fast moving elevator into the unknown, he finds himself in a strange new world. Terrified, he is taken in by a group of boys who have created their own society that they cannot escape from thanks to the walls of a massive maze which surrounds them.
REVIEW: As far as young-adult feature film adaptations, the latest entitled THE MAZE RUNNER is not as bad as other movies not called THE HUNGER GAMES. This science fiction, post-apocalyptic adventure features a young and mostly amiable cast, as well as an intriguing premise. Based on the book by James Dashner, with a script by Noah Oppenheim, this dystopian world held captive by a massive stone maze features a ton of young male brooding as well as a decent amount of action. With a little more intensity than you’d expect, this “epic” tale still falls a little short of the crossover that it could have been.
We are first introduced to Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) when he is thrust into a strange world with a group of boys who have created their own version of a civilization. With no memory of exactly who he is, how he got there (or why), he quickly learns that each of them have gone through the same experience. Surrounding the vast land that they call home is the massive stone walls of a maze that towers above their little self-made utopia. Every day, the maze doors open with a hint of escape, but once night falls, the walls shut leaving anyone trapped inside prey to large insect looking beasts called Grievers. Thomas, at first frightened, soon gives into curiosity, as he is introduced to a part of this civilization called “Runners.” Their job is to enter the maze each day to find their way to freedom.
This village of boys is further disrupted with the arrival of a teenage girl named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) who seems to be familiar with Thomas. In her hand is a note that claims she will be the last one. What this means, and who is sending the selected youth to this lost civilization, is unknown to the group aside from the acronym WCKD (World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department), a company that delivers necessities to the selected boys (and now girl). The mystery of why they are there, and what the monstrous creatures hiding in the maze walls are, is slowly revealed thanks to Thomas’ inquisitive spirit. However, the more that is revealed, the deadlier their situation becomes when soon the walls of the maze fail to close leaving them open to attacks from the Grievers.
The cast surrounding Thomas give solid performances for the most part. Aml Ameen as Alby, the leader of the group, gives an appropriately commanding performance. As his next in line, Newt, Thomas Brodie-Sangster offers the newly arrived citizen an understanding ally. And SON OF RAMBOW star Will Poulter as Gally is the bitter – almost irritatingly so – member that doesn’t trust this troublemaking newbie. As the lone female in the group however, Scodelario is scarcely used aside from as a nurse to Alby when he is stung by a Griever. It is hardly the typical female role that you’d expect in a YA based feature film. The talented Patricia Clarkson is also wasted as the mysterious woman behind WCKD. The actress is better than the material given to her.
First time feature film director Wes Ball handles this translation capably enough. The world inside, and out, of the maze is impressive enough. The Grievers who stalk the constantly shifting labyrinth are menacing, even if many of their sequences are slightly too dark to be fully effective. There is a foreboding tension that lingers inside the maze, something that would have benefited with more screen time. One frustrating aspect is the point when the climax of a chase is about to happen and the screen goes black without showing exactly how it ends. Sure we see the aftermath and it's no surprise, but the couple of scenes where this occurs are more than a little anti-climactic.
Depending on the film's success, we are more than likely to get a sequel to THE MAZE RUNNER. As someone who is not familiar with the source material, it wasn’t shocking to see that there is more to this world than featured here. Let’s just say that the second part will happen with the help of decent box office, but unless you are fan of the book, you may very well be frustrated by the concluding moments. The finale here has been slightly altered, but it is still close to what fans are familiar with. THE MAZE RUNNER is a moderately entertaining film, yet for those who are not invested in the book it may just be another YA adaptation that fails to leave much of an impression. If you are looking for the next HUNGER GAMES, this isn’t near to that level, but you could do worse.
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