Review: The Maze Runner

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The Maze Runner is the latest YA novel to receive a big screen adaptation. This story involves a group of boys in a  dystopian future (surprise!) who are mysteriously placed in the middle of a maze – a section they’ve nicknamed “The Glades”. Every month a new “Glader” is sent up in an elevator along with supplies, and this month it’s Thomas (Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien). Like all new Gladers, he has no recollection of who his, where he came from, and more importantly who put him there.

Thomas learns from one of the Glade leaders, Alby (Aml Ameen), there are only three rules in the Glades: 1) Do your part. 2) Never harm another Glader. 3) Never go beyond the maze walls. The maze wall opens ever morning and “runners”, led by Minho (Ki Hong Lee), are sent to map the maze. They’ve been mapping it for years because  the maze changes every day. The runners have to make it back to the Glades before the maze. Once it closes, they’re stuck in the maze and nobody survives a night in the maze. At night the maze is crawling with hideous eight legged creatures nicknamed “Grievers”.

Everything is running smoothly until Thomas runs into the maze to save one of the injured runners. He not only breaks one of the rules, he kills a Griever in the process. Thomas challenging the social structure of The Glades rubs Gally (We’re The Millers’ Will Poulter) the wrong way and starts to disrupt the peaceful existence they’ve created.

The maze starts behaving strangely and sends a new kid up – this time it’s a girl. Teresa has a note attached that says “She’s the last one. Ever.” Fear they won’t get any more supplies to help them survive, the boys on a race against time to find a way out of the Glades.

The Maze Runner has been described as “Lord of the Flies meets The Hunger Games”. It’s really Lord of the Flies with a little bit of No Escape and Divergent sprinkled in.

The film has no reason being as entertaining as it is. That’s mostly due to the outstanding  performances by the young actors. Aml Ameen gives a passionate performance as the longest tenured Glader. He also serves as the character who describes what’s happening in the Glades to the audience by answering Thomas’ questions.

Dylan O’Brien gives a strong performance, but the surprise performance comes from Will Poulter who serves as the villain inside the Glade walls. He’s an understated villain because he feels he’s doing the right thing to save himself and the other boys.

The movie gets every inch out of its PG-13 rating. It really pushes the envelope for a movie that has gigantic mutated cyborg -spiders killing kids. It never shies away from kids meeting their demise in the most violent ways possible – off a cliff, crushed, stung, and even eaten.

The biggest problem is The Maze Runner  being the first in a series of books. None of these stories are made to be standalone movies. Maze Runner is an interesting story but it ends up asking a bunch of questions it never has time to answer. And each time you get one answer, you’re met with three more questions that only make things more confusing.

Mainly, the lack of answers lead to an ending that’s as laughable as it is a by-the-book sci-fi action finale.

For a film that’s as generic as YA novel adaptations get, The Maze Runner is a delightfully fun at the movies. The world that’s set up around the Glades and the who, what, where, and why’s of the story are intriguing. Having O’Brien as a charismatic lead doesn’t hurt either. It looks like we finally have a successor to The Hunger Games. I’m all in for two more movies (most likely 3) to get answers to some of these questions. They do answer these questions? Right?

Grade: B

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