Once in a while, I force myself to withhold writing a review for a movie. I choose to wait a few days before actually sitting down and unfolding my thoughts for anyone who cares to read them.
In the case of The Maze Runner, we have a film that has proven more polarizing than expecting. That is, more people are walking out of the theater satisfied than I think analysts predicted. I’m one of those people, and I’m more sure of this now even after coming across negative reviews elsewhere.
I’ve never read the trilogy of books that The Maze Runner is based on, which is good news for the majority of people who are reading this. After all, fans of the books have likely already decided whether or not this film is worth watching.
So to be clear, I went into The Maze Runner with a blank slate, much like how the film itself begins.
The film opens with Thomas, a teenage boy who wakes up in an ascending elevator. He’s frantic, and we soon realize why. Thomas has no idea where or even who he is. And he’s greeted by a gathering of fellow teenage boys who share the same affliction.
It’s a great narrative device to give your main character amnesia from the start. It allows the audience to immediately connect with Thomas and learn the rules of the world alongside him. It’s an easy, but effective way to immerse your audience.
The story is a fun and thrilling ride, as the “rules” of the world continue to be challenged by newcomer Thomas. The boys live within the “Glade,” a spread out field that lies within the center of a deadly maze that towers over them.
At night, the walls of the maze close. This ritual protects the boys from dangerous creatures that would kill them outright. During the day, the “runners” explore the maze in an attempt to find a way out. But if they don’t make it back before the walls close…well, let’s just say that no one survives a night in the maze.
The boys are sent to this place with amnesia, though they gain their memory within a day or two. They know that someone is doing all of this to them, since a new “Glader” is sent to the maze every month with fresh supplies.
The characters Thomas interacts and forms relationships with are unique, rather than placeholders for the most part. You’ll likely find them endearing, especially if you enjoy the “Lost Boys” aesthetic.
Speaking of, I found it particularly refreshing to watch a YA adaptation that is more about adventure and science fiction than a coming-of-age romance story. It probably helps that the main set of characters are boys, and it’s fun to watch a group of hapless teens try to create their own society.
Put simply, this is a story about survival. Not politics. Not forbidden romance. Just getting through the day.
As the film progresses, Thomas’s curiosity creates new problems for the residents of the maze. This culminates when a girl ascends in the elevator soon after Thomas (too soon) with the note that she is the “last one ever.”
This of course leads to all-out chaos that sparks a believable and gripping third act, with an ending that I honestly didn’t see coming.
To be fair, elements of The Maze Runner are quite predictable. And some execution of the ideas presented are more derivative of similar YA fare akin to Hunger Games.
But if you stick with these characters until the very end, you may find yourself pumped for Act II, which has unsurprisingly been green lit early by Fox thanks to strong box office numbers.
The Maze Runner is certainly not a runaway hit, though. At least when you compare it to other YA franchises that have been proven moneymakers. It’s collected $81 million worldwide in its first weekend, which isn’t anything to scoff at, especially when you consider it only cost $34 million to make.
So we can expect another one of these movies (The Scorch Trials) in the near future. And judging by the strong performance by Dylan O’Brien (who happens to be one of my favorite actors and can be seen on MTV’s Teen Wolf), a sequel could make Fox’s investment truly pay off.
This is no Hunger Games-killer, but it’s certainly a welcome departure from tired outings such as Divergent and The Giver. One of my few complaints is that the film tragically under-utilizes Kaya Scodelario (Effy from Skins), who’s probably wondering why she didn’t join her friends in Game of Thrones.
Her character, Teresa, is more of a plot device than an engaging character, which is a shame since she happens to be one of the only girls in the film. Still, we can hopefully expect more from her character in coming installments.
Is it worth watching?
Yes. The Maze Runner is an easy film to sink your teeth into, if you’re willing to sink your teeth into it. The story, lore and characters ultimately work because they are as simple as they elegant. And of course, the special effects are expertly handled to make this world come alive.
The Maze Runner was directed by Wes Ball and is based on the series of books written by James Dashner. It stars Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, and Kaya Scodelario.