The Maze Runner (Wes Ball, 2014)
I remember as a child going into a maze at a park and getting frustrated by all the dead ends. Well that ain’t got nothing on the maze in this film, because if you don’t get out in time, YOU DIE! And you have to run, and I really, really, hate running. I also have no sense of direction which might make things a tad difficult. In that sense, this film depicted my version of hell, but it was also a hell of a lot of fun to watch.Following in the footsteps of The Hunger Games and Divergent films, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is the latest young adult trilogy to get the Hollywood treatment. While it shares some similarities with these dystopian series, director Wes Ball describes The Maze Runner as “Lord of the Flies meets Lost”. And that sounds pretty damn good to me. The film begins with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) finding himself in an isolated community with no memory of his past or how he got there. He joins a group of thirty-odd teenage boys who all arrived in a similar state of confusion and have never regained their memories. Together they live in The Glade, an enclosed grassy space surrounded by an ominous maze. During the day, designated ‘runners’ run the maze to map its course, but must return by the time the walls close and the deadly ‘Grievers’ come out to play. Thomas breaks the status quo and… shit gets real!
This was an intense cinematic experience, and I was kicking myself for not checking whether or not it was a trilogy beforehand. IS IT? WHY DIDN’T I CHECK? WHAT IF IT JUST ENDS AT ANY SECOND? ARE WE GOING TO FIND OUT WHAT THE POINT OF THE MAZE IS?! I feared it would have an unsatisfactory cliff-hanger ending, but I needn’t have worried because it wrapped up nicely, while still keeping us begging for more. There are two more films to come, with The Scorch Trials slated for release in 2015. The music is full-on and the action scenes made my heart go a million miles a minute. It really didn’t help that the Grievers looked like giant spiders. If there’s one thing I hate more than running, it’s spiders. And yet, I still loved this movie!
The Maze Runner takes time with its set-up, and the audience is given bits of information slowly, which only adds to the suspense and has us right with Thomas. Though it does have a Lord of the Flies vibe, the boys aren’t quite so feral here, which was quite a surprise. The mutual respect among many of the characters was heartening to see (maybe people CAN be decent in desperate situations). Of course there is some animosity, and an interesting conflict emerges over whether it is better to risk death to escape, or accept things as they are to remain safe. I’m sure the book delves even deeper into this idea.
I didn’t have high hopes as far as the acting was concerned, but the entire pack of boys was well-cast, and it was good to see that they made a bit of an effort with multicultural casting (I’m unsure if that follows on from the book or not). Dylan O’Brien was perfectly capable in the lead role, and not at all bad to look at either. Thomas Brodie-Sangster will always be the cute little kid from Love Actually to me. He is still almost exactly the same – just taller and with a deeper voice. He was a sweetie but I really just wanted to see him bang some drums and run through an airport after a precocious little girl. I was a bit concerned with Kaya Scodelario’s casting because the only other big film she has been in (Wuthering Heights) was CRAZILY BAD. But never fear, that was hopefully the sole dent on her resumé. Her character is important but she doesn’t really get to do much, but I assume she gets meatier material in the upcoming films.
The Maze Runner was better than Divergent, but not quite as good as The Hunger Games, because, well, is anything? There were a few unanswered questions, but I assume they will be answered in the upcoming sequels. The little taste we got was sufficient and intriguing enough to make me desperately want to see the next one. If you’re into this genre, you best go check this one out. In a word: A-MAZE-ING! (Sorry, I had to).