The Maze Runner Review

7 Overall Score
Performances : 8/10
Story : 7/10
Direction : 6/10

O'Brien and Supporting Cast, the Setup, The Atmosphere

The Ending, Certain Effects

In this Hunger Games era that we live in, films such as The Maze Runner have a tendency to struggle to standout among its similar kin. Adaptations of young-adult novels have a tendency to either explode or crash-and-burn, with rarely anything in between. For every Hunger Games or Divergent, there’s a The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones or The Host. The Maze Runner is hoping to fall in line with the former, and early box office receipts seem to be fulfilling those expectations. It’s a good thing that this victory is deserved, as The Maze Runner is an all-together solid film, utilizing strong performances, a cool concept, and thrilling moments to counteract its bigger flaws.

 

As the first in a planned trilogy, the central premise of The Maze Runner plays out like a twisted blend of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. The film opens with Thomas (Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) trapped in an ascending elevator that deposits him into a large open field, where a community of teenage boys greets him at the surface. Thomas doesn’t remember anything from his past life, nor do his new colleagues. What he does know, however, is that “The Glade” (as they call it) is trapped within the confines of a large cement structure, described as a giant “maze” that is filled with danger and death during the night. During the day, designated boys’ known as “runners” attempt to map out the confines in hopes to find an escape route.

 

Thomas starts to interact with the other boys, including leader Alby (Aml Ameen), brutish Gally (We’re the Millers’ Will Poulter), second-in-command Newt (Game of Thrones’ Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and juvenile Chuck (Blake Cooper). As more and more time passes by, things begin to change. Certain events lead to the chance of escape growing higher, as well as the threat of danger. It’s up to Thomas to find out who and what he is and get the rest of the community out safely.

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The central premise is strong and holds plenty of potential for an exciting dystopian adventure, but it would be equally as important for the direction and writing to match that potential. James Dashner, who wrote the 2009 novel that the film is based on, also penned the screenplay for this adaptation. Dashner does a nice job of detailing the various intricacies and world-building elements of this universe he created. This is a story that is very exposition heavy, but the film is careful to avoid making that fact a distraction. Thomas serves as a strong audience surrogate, and the film puts the viewers in a position to simultaneously learn more about this world with him.

 

O’Brien is a charismatic lead; his Thomas is a curious and heroic character worth following. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed his presence, and I sense this could be the beginning to a long and prosperous career. O’Brien’s got a strong supporting cast by his side. Ameen and Brodie-Sangster are calming presences, channeling what it means to be a good leader. On the flip side, Poulter shows unexpected range in an antagonizing but sympathetic role. Kaya Scodelario is serviceable in an underwritten part as the lone female of “The Glade”, as is veteran actress Patricia Clarkson in a more mysterious role.

Director Wes Ball does a competent job in his directorial debut. Ball has an excellent sense for atmosphere, as The Maze Runner is consistently dark and moody. He gets in his own way at several points, however, as the cinematography is muddled at important moments (in particular a couple of crucial scenes at night) and the effects fluctuate far too often between impressive and silly. On top of that, the film limps to a finish, as answers to important questions are glossed over, and before they receive a proper explanation, the film abruptly cuts to black.

 

The Maze Runner is a film clearly planned as a setup, with bigger and hopefully better things in mind. This type of planning clearly has paid off, as the next installment of the franchise will be coming this time next year, but it’s a bit of a detriment to this film’s third act. I hope that certain things left unclear are given more clarity in the future. For now, The Maze Runner is a surprisingly intense, consistently entertaining sci-fi thriller that showcases its young cast and cool concept. Hopefully the future of this upstart franchise will continue to provide us with a puzzle worth solving.

 

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Author: Andrew Auger View all posts by
Andrew Auger is a student at Marist College and is majoring in Journalism. He is a huge fan of movies, and considers the late film critic Roger Ebert his idol. He hopes to one day be a prestigious film critic just like Mr. Ebert.

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