Review: ‘The Maze Runner’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

34 thoughts on “Review: ‘The Maze Runner’

  1. It was surprisingly better than expected and am looking to the next instalment (already in the works). Hopefully, they’ve retained the director, Wes Ball. He made the excellent short, Ruin.

    • I’m about 90% positive Fox is keeping him. He’s brilliant at working with a low budget, as you’ve seen with Ruin. And I’d add that Beginners (Ewan McGregor) is one of my favorite indie films of all time.

  2. Hmm, I didn’t particularly like the books. For me, it seemed the author thought, “Hmm, how about a cool thing! And another cool thing! And another! And another!” The series is a succession of action sequences that make no sense – this would have been OK if the ending had satisfactorily wrapped everything up, but I found it really frustrating. But some people like it, we all have our own opinions. Hopefully the movies will be better. 🙂

    • For sure. Hunger Games is certainly an example of a book that fell short (for me, at least) but was brilliantly done when translated to film.

    • Nice review. Though there is one thing I have to disagree with when you say Maze Runner is more interesting than Hunger Games. Maze Runner is a cool film, but I still don’t think its universe holds a candle to the world of Panem. Just my opinion, of course.

  3. I’ve never been interested in film reviews until now. This is actually really good. Great job! I’m looking forward to see the movie.

    • You mean in general? I’m flattered, and I guess I can understand why more and more people dislike reading the traditional movie review. Most professional critics come at a review from the angle, “Here is what I think about the movie.” And that’s it.

      I, on the other hand, don’t just leave it at that. I talk about whether or not people will like a film. Hence my motto, is it worth watching?

      I hope you like the movie!

  4. Interesting. I, for the most part, never liked YA films like the Twilight series, because of the overly played ”coming-of-age romance”. So it’s nice to hear that there is a movie from the genre based on something else for a change.

    • Right. No love triangles (Twilight/Hunger Games) and no derivative universe (Percy Jackson). Just a cool story.

  5. Hi, Jon. Great film review! I had seen the preview for this movie on t.v. before, but it looked so much like Hunger Games that I wasn’t sure if it would be worth watching. After reading your review, though, I want to see how it is and if I like it or not. Thanks for the great review and for all of the other written content on your site! I am a recent reader and though I subscribed, I haven’t commented as much as I would have liked to. I will try to comment more whenever I read one of your entries! Thanks again! 🙂

    • Thanks, Diana. Your comments are always welcome here 🙂

      I hope you like the film. Even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s certainly a special story that I think plenty of people will enjoy.

    • You’re going to love a lot of people, then, because the movie made a good amount of money last weekend.

        • I’m in my 20s and grew up speaking Spanish (parents are from Puerto Rico but had me shortly after moving to America). Not really fluent anymore, sadly.

          • ohh lo siento pero casi no hablo en ingles y me cansa usar mi mente asies que tu respondeme en ingles y yo en español ok oye dale like a la entrada de hunger games

  6. Don’t worry, Teresa becomes a more prominent figure in the next books!! I really enjoyed your review. I’m glad you noticed how it’s not the typical romance centered young adult film! It has an enticing story line and plot that keeps you involved until the end. Personally, I believe the books are superior to Divergent and The Hunger Games. There’s just something that this series has that the others don’t.

    • There’s no debate here that Maze Runner thrashes Divergent as story material. Looks like I’ll have to finally read the books! Would you suggest starting with the first one, or am I OK just jumping into Scorch Trials?

  7. Awesome review, and I agree with everything you said. As I’ve never read the books, I was expecting a love triangle, depressing romance, luckily, no romance at all! (yet) I thought the acting was spectacular and the effects impressive for a movie with that kind of budget. Just found your site and am hooked!!! Keep up the brilliant work!

    • Thanks! And I don’t mind romance in films, as long as there is a proper buildup and it’s not forced. In this case, I think later films based on this series have the potential to tell a good love story if it really wants to.

  8. hi jon! I actually did not see it(exams 🙁 ) I badly wanted to see it and I was asking the same question over and over! your article/blog really helped me out thanks! 😉 but I don’t understand the plot, even from what you said (sorry) k bye! 😉

  9. I don’t understand how the author could allow such a butchering of his books. I am aware that somethings must be adapted to fit the big screen but they changed too pertinent details. I will not be watching any of the next releases and hope for a remake correcting all these pointless changes which have stripped the series of its identity. I wish i could personally chastise all those involved in destroying an enjoyable story.

  10. Love the film 😍😍

  11. Love the film 😍😍

  12. I have seen the movie and i really liked it, so when i came across your review i was kind of expecting to see more of a review about your actual thoughts on the movie, the things you found reasonable and unreasonable in the movie and not a short narration of the movie but still nice work! 🙂

  13. Maze Runner was very interesting because they blended all the genres in one movies. The most common genres are horror, action/adventure, drama, and Sci-fi. At the beginning of the Maze Runner it focuses on action/adventure but in the middle to the end it brings all the genres in one movie. The characters worked well together, I believe that the other actors knew each other well while acting.

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