The Maze Runner

Directed by:  Wes Ball

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Kaya Scodelario

After the success of The Hunger Games, the Twilight series, and Divergent, studios are constantly looking for the next big young adult film craze. The right YA book adaptation can be highly lucrative.  James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is the latest young adult book brought to the big screen.  While the success of The Maze Runner is still uncertain, this action-packed thriller marks a strong start for the series.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) awakes in an elevator cage.  He does not know who he is or how he got there. When the elevator stops, he finds himself in a field surrounded by a group of teenage boys laughing and jeering at him.  Terrified, Thomas initially tries to escape, but then he realizes that the Glade is sealed off by walls.  After the guys stop teasing the “greenie,” Alby (Aml Ameen) shows Thomas around. Thomas discovers that the Glade is inhabited by teenage boys.  All of their memories have been wiped clean, except for their names.  Once a month, a boy is added to the Glade via the elevator. 

The Glade is surrounded by a massive, deadly, constantly evolving maze.  The doors to the Maze open in the morning and close just before dark.  No one trapped in the Maze at night has ever survived.  Grievers, robotic monsters, patrol the Maze at night and kill anyone they find. Alby was the first person sent to the Glade. He leads this “Lord of the Flies” like society with several simple rules.  Everyone pulls their own weight; they do not hurt each other; and no one goes into the Maze.  

Thomas is understandably dismayed at their plight and anxious to find a way out of the Glade.  Unlike Gally (Will Poulter) and some of the others who are content to remain in the Glade, Thomas wants to get out.  He constantly breaks the rules.  There is a pecking order in the society, with those who work, cook, serve as doctors, etc.  But the most dangerous and revered job is a runner.  The runners are the only ones allowed to go into the Maze.  During the day when the doors open, the runners search the Maze looking for an escape route.  Thomas wants to run and search for an escape. His rebellious spirit changes the Glade forever.

The Maze Runner is action-packed, intense and had me on the edge of my seat.  Director Wes Ball hits just the right note.  From the opening scene of a terrified Thomas trapped in an elevator lift with the words W.C.K.D. flashing before him to the scenes of Thomas and Minho sprinting through the Maze as the walls closed around them with giant Grievers on their trail, Ball takes audiences on an intense, dark ride.  The Maze Runner sets itself apart from other young adult films in that there is not a love triangle or any sort of romance.  There are certainly close bonds and friendships.  But the chief focus in The Maze Runner is survival and escape.  Since I have not read the books, I do not know whether that was a choice by the screenwriters, or if the author went that direction with the lead character being male.  But it certainly sets Thomas apart from Katniss, Tris or Bella.  Comparing the heroes and heroines in young adult dystopian films could certainly be an interesting essay.

The cast delivers as well.  As I watched, I played my own mental game of “Where do I know this kid from?”  Young stars from films like Love Actually, We’re The Millers, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Internship, Black Nativity, Joyful Noise, and many more turn in solid performances in The Maze Runner.  Dylan O’Brien brings the right level of intensity and passion to the lead role.  In addition, it was nice to see Will Poulter stray away from the nerd role he is typically cast in, and actually play a tough character.

Where The Maze Runner falters is at the end of the film.  It is always incredibly difficult to successfully end a movie that is part of a trilogy.  Time and time again, directors fumble as they try to climax the film but also set up the next movie. Ball likewise struggles a bit in closing out The Maze Runner.

The Maze Runner
earns a 0.06% rating.  This is a strong start for the franchise, and I am headed to download the second book in the series, The Scorch Trials.