It seems like every week there is a new film adaptation of a young adult book series. Thanks to The Hunger Games, the majority of these films are future dystopias and The Maze Runner is no different. No really, it’s basically The Hunger Games crossed with Lord of the Flies.
The story follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), a young man who is inserted into a group of other boys who live in a glade surrounded on all sides by a massive concrete maze. Thomas has no memory of who he is or why he’s in the Glade. The other boys are in the same boat, but they have built the Glade into a functioning society over the last three years. Interestingly, Thomas is the only one who is interested in testing the maze to try and escape their situation. The others have mapped it out over the years, but they are wary of it thanks to the vicious Grievers that stalk the maze and kill intruders. Thomas makes friends as well as enemies while leading the charge to find out who put them where they are and why.
Ultimately, I found the answer to that mystery lame. It feels like the authors behind these books are running out of fresh ideas and now they’re throwing anything against the wall. Of course, I’m just guessing if the film stayed true to the book—I haven’t read it—but I would think that the reason for the entire premise of the story would remain consistent. I thought the premise—which I won’t reveal here—was overly contrived and didn’t make a whole lot of sense based on what happens to the kids in the maze.
Also, the film stretched its believability with its compressed timeline. Thomas is only in the Glade for three days, but suddenly he’s tight with some of the others like brothers. That didn’t jibe with me. In addition to the compression, there were also inconsistencies in the plot that felt like they happened just to happen. I was left scratching my head trying to figure out why. Again, I don’t want to get into specifics, because I don’t want to spoil the film for anyone.
All of this isn’t to say that The Maze Runner is a bad movie. In fact, it’s highly entertaining with great action and nice special effects. The Grievers are very creepy and very cool. It had a lot of potential, but for me, it fell short of being a great story.
The biggest issue with The Maze Runner is that it is another franchise/series starter that fails as a movie on its own. The whole point of the first installment is to set up future installments, leaving the story in the first film lacking.
The acting is decent for what the young actors are given. O’Brien is good in the lead role, but I would have liked to have seen a slower burn. Kaya Scodelario is wasted as Teresa. She’s basically a plot device and not a character. Will Poulter is good as the villain Gally, but what could have been an interesting, complicated role devolves into a straight bad guy part. I did like the multiracial cast, though, including Ki Hong Lee as Minho and Aml Ameen as Alby.
Overall, The Maze Runner is a decent film, but it is ultimately a disappointment as a movie by itself. The central conceit is a bit of a stretch and convoluted, so I’m not sure how it will play out over a series. You can probably skip this one, but may want to catch it on DVD.