Dir: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario and Patricia Clarkson
Synopsis: Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review*
Based on the popular Young Adult novel of the same name by James Dashner, The Maze Runner is another entry into the YA dystopian novel adaptation movies. I haven’t read the book, although I did start with the intention of finishing before the movie came out but that didn’t happen. So this review will be based on the movie alone, which I thought wasn’t going to be good. To my surprise, The Maze Runner was rather enjoyable despite falling – or following depending on how you view it – into some of the same tropes as other YA adaptations.
Thomas (O’Brien) wakes up in an elevator with no memory of how he got there, his life, or even his name. The elevator stops and soon he’s surrounded by other young men who are all looking at him. He finds out that the place he’s in is called “The Glade,” a large environment filled with trees, forest, a lake, and other small things that allows everyone to live off the land. What Thomas soon realizes is that the Glade is surrounded by a gigantic concrete maze that is filled with secrets, one that could lead to a way out, and the dangerous Grievers.
When Thomas enters the Glade, he learns that everyone has been there for three years. He immediately gets close to the chosen leader of the “Gladers” in Alby (Ameen), Newt (Brodie-Sangster), and the youngest member of the group Chuck (Cooper). Thomas is curious about everything, which makes some of the Gladers, more specifically Gally (Poulter), a little bit antagonistic toward Thomas because Gally wants to stick to the rules that have kept them alive for so long.
One of the things the movie suffers from is “information dumping.” Since Thomas acts as our surrogate, he’s told a lot of information by the characters about his new surroundings. Mostly by starting with “We call them…” it’s not really annoying, and it stops once movie gets to the midway point, but it does give us some vital information. One example is “Runners” which Minho (Lee) is the leader of. Runners – obviously – run the maze and try to figure out a way out.
Things go out of whack when the first girl, Teresa (Scodelario), comes to the Glade and automatically points out Thomas. This makes everyone, especially Gally, start to second guess why Thomas and even Teresa are there. It also doesn’t help that once Teresa shows up and Thomas goes into the maze with Minho and finally discovers something that could lead them out, Grievers start to attack.
The cast here is highlighted by Ameen, Brodie-Sangster, Lee and Poulter. Their supporting roles really give you a sense of brotherhood and make you believe they really have been there for three years trying to get out of their prison. O’Brien does okay as Thomas. For being the lead he doesn’t really bring a lot of charisma or leadership to the role. I understand that Thomas is still trying to figure out who he is and what’s happening but maybe O’Brien wasn’t the best choice for the role (of course says the guy who is not an actor), luckily he has a standout scene near the end. The other odd end is Kaya Scodelario, who beside Patricia Clarkson in a cameo appearance, is the only female in the cast. Scodelario, who puts on a questionable accent, doesn’t really do much besides question why she’s in Glade and what her connection to Thomas is (which even in the end is a bit iffy).
One of the best things is how director Wes Ball builds the world. Which really that much of a surprise considering his amazing looking and well done short film called Ruin (which I highly recommend watching http://youtu.be/doteMqP6eSc). The design of the maze looks somewhat low-tech and but also has a futuristic look and feel to it, but then again, all the Gladers have to fight and defend themselves with is knifes and wooden spears.
The best part is the maze. Unfortunately for a movie called The Maze Runner there sure isn’t a lot of maze running. However, when they are in the maze it’s highly engaging and actually thrilling. Ball does have a great sense of knowing what to show and how fast everything should move and more importantly when to stop or slow down.
All in all, The Maze Runner isn’t perfect but it is highly enjoyable and arguably the better of the dystopian YA movies out there so far. It does have a “Lord of the Flies” feel to it but Wes Ball manages to bring some cool aspects and great action sequences with a young cast that is still growing. The ending feels a bit wonky and serves as a set up for future sequels (which has already been announced) and really takes the steam out of everything that they put together.
The Maze Runner
4 out of 5