By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
The popular trend of young adult novel adaptations has yet another cinematic offering for their fans and anyone else who has enjoyed this movie fad. In addition to the hunger gamers, the divergents, and the sparkly, mopey vampires, audiences can now follow the adventures of Thomas and his band of rebels who desire to uncover the mystery behind their enclosure on a large plot of land surrounded by a deadly maze. There is a problem with said mystery, though. The movie does have a bit of a reveal, but not a completely satisfying one and the audience is left still wondering what exactly is happening and why they should care. Nevertheless, director Wes Ball does some fine work building up suspense and delivering some thrilling action sequences. The Maze Runner feels a bit incomplete as a stand alone picture, but it is a hell of a ride.
Dylan O’Brien stars as Thomas, the latest addition to a community of boys isolated in a large piece of land they have called The Glade. Led by Alby (Aml Ameen), the people of The Glade have learned to survive on their own without the help of any adults. Each member plays an important role in keeping the community alive and well. Each month a new boy is introduced to The Glade. When Thomas arrives he has no memory of his past, but eventually remembers his name. In addition to the farmers and other workers in the community a group of select members attempt to navigate the maze structure which surrounds their land. In doing so, they attempt to find their way to the truth behind their living situation. Navigating the maze is no easy task as it is guarded by deadly bio-mechanical spiders they call Grievers. Thomas feels compelled to become a maze runner and help the others discover the reason for their entrapment. Even though he shows a natural talent for navigating the maze and engaging the Grievers, the once quite lives of the Gladers will never be the same.
Based on the novel of the same name by James Dasher, director Wes Ball and screenwriters Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, T.S. Nowlin have made an interesting and often exciting movie, but a messy one at that. The inspiration of The Lord of the Flies, science fiction, dystopian stories and zombie horror are quite obvious and keeps the movie fun and entertaining. The characters are decently developed and well enough for audiences to connect and empathize, but the reveals, whether false or true within the story, often confound and confuses the audience even more. Misplaced beats and multiple endings also take away from the conclusion of the film. Everything else leading up to the climax and conclusion work fine, though. I suppose that greater, and more shocking revelations will come with subsequent movies, but this doesn’t really help The Maze Runner stand on its own.
The film has solid performances by O’Brien and Ameen and also feature fine work by actors Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, and Kaya Scolderario which comes a relief as I can seriously do without anymore wooden, dull, or overdone performances as can be found in the Twilight movies. And as far as dystopian teen movies go, this one doesn’t quite shine as much as the Hunger Games series, but I did find it to be more fascinating and compelling than Divergent.
So even though this first installment does have its problems, it really isn’t a bad start to a potentially great film series. Because the mysteries still haven’t been thoroughly revealed here, I am tremendously curious to see where this story is heading. I’d also enjoy seeing stronger and more mature performances from the young talented cast. Only time and perhaps money will tell.