The Maze Runner, 2014
Directed by: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson
The Maze Runner, the latest young-adult novel adapted for the big screen, stars Dylan O’Brien (American Assassin) as Thomas, who wakes up one day inside a box, surrounded by a host of other young males, and with no memory of any incident prior or even who he is. The area they’re all in is a secluded field, where for the most part they’re self-sufficient, aside from any important supplies sent through the box from an unknown supplier, but they’re also trapped. The walls surrounding them have four entrances which all lead into a giant revolving set of mazes, and nobody who gets trapped behind the door (it has set-times where it opens and closes) they don’t generally survive the night.
It’s the latest in a long-line of young adult movies, and can easily get lost in the shuffle, but this was actually a pretty decent film; it falls somewhere short of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone but is of a higher quality than The Hunger Games, so an overall solid film. There is a lot of intrigue and mystery in this film, and it does a brilliant job of not revealing very many details early on. Thomas does ask a lot of questions, and, honestly, this is both a good tactic to use and a poor tactic. On the plus side, we, the audience, are Thomas; he asks our questions, he does our suggestions and he walks us through our understanding of this world while he’s also understanding this world. However, he asks a lot of questions. It does become quite obvious after a few that they aren’t telling us information through actions, instead relying heavily on Thomas asking everything, even if he doesn’t get very many answers.
Visually, this film is very good looking; the maze locations are very well detailed and the sheer contrast between the luscious green fields to the dark, gloomy mazes is brilliant. There is a rather elongated scene of Thomas staring at the entrance to the maze, and it perfectly captures how opposite the idyllic lifestyle they have against the threat of trying to leave it. However, the presentation suffers from the lighting department. A lot of the time in the maze is spent at night, and there are a lot of moments, especially during the running, where it is quite confusing trying to work out what is actually going on.
And the whole cast, aside from one which I’ll get to, play their parts very well. From Dylan O’Brien’s lead to the rest of his team, including a young Will Poulter (Detroit) as a villainous wannabe-leader in the camp (with shades of Lord of the Flies about it), but Kaya Scodelario, who plays Teresa, is pretty poor throughout. Her facials don’t often convey the emotions needed in the scenes and generally doesn’t affect the plot too much.
My biggest issues with The Maze Runner lie in its overall explanations for things, and its lack of development on things. I can’t reveal too much about this (without going into spoiler territory), but the ending isn’t very well explained, nor was Teresa’s entrance fully explored. Firstly, she’s a girl being sent to a land of boys, which should have caused some discussion, and secondly she had a note stating ‘she’s the last one ever’, which is spoken about once or twice but not built on. They also largely ignore the impressive feat that Thomas and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) achieved by surviving a night in the maze. Everyone seems pleased they’re back home but nobody seems impressed by them having survived something which has never happened before. It’s small things but the film makes them out to be important but doesn’t go too far into it.
The Maze Runner is a very fine young-adult film: not the best, not the worst. The priority seems to be the action, not the world and its logic, but it does the action scenes very well. The running scenes, the locations, the tenseness of it all are all very entertaining, but I wanted more meat on the bone.
Plot: * * * Acting: * * * Writing: * * Presentation: * * *