Wait a sec…did he spell his name with an ‘h’? Damn….
The Maze Runner is another adaptation of a Young Adult (or YA–which always reminds me of how they say, “Oh, ya!” in Fargo) novel that takes place in a dystopian future. This time the hero is a young man named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) who gets banished into a weird setting called The Glade, which looks like a nature preserve that’s run by a bunch of other boys who live out a Lord Of The Flies-type existence. Thomas arrives in this glade via an elevator that rises up from the depths of an unseen installation with no memory of his prior life–he doesn’t even recall his own name until he gets the shit knocked out of him while roughhousing with another kid. Apparently, remembering your name is a big deal among these refugees, but they don’t recall anything else.
Judging from the doorway, this was built by somebody REALLY tall and thin.
The glade is surrounded by a gigantic maze that’s built up from humungous slabs of concrete, and it’s a maze that changes direction every day. That’s why the boys send out Runners, two volunteers who run through the maze in an attempt to try and find a way out. But the maze is also loaded with Grievers: large spider-like monsters who hunt down and kill anybody who’s crazy enough to try and make it through the maze. And guess who’s crazy enough to try and do this? That’s right, it’s Tommy. When The Maze Runner takes place in the maze itself, it’s pretty thrilling. The movie really comes alive in this shadowy arena that’s filled with menace.
There, you hear it now? There’s something evil in the Maze…and it’s tap dancing!
The Grievers are also a well-executed menace, and director Wes Ball wrings the appropriate amount of tension from these scenes. But the main problem with The Maze Runner is that the characters all feel so flat and lifeless. Instead of getting caught up in Thomas’ struggle, it feels like the film is just going through the perfunctory motions of a YA (“Oh, ya!”) novel with dystopian overtones. We quickly meet the hero, he in turn meets the Lord Of The Flies rejects, and–oh look, some of them are nice guys, and hey, what’s that scary sound coming from the maze? Oh, look, a girl arrives, just in time to create the dutiful romance for the hero. How nice…and boring. There’s really nothing new or different here, nor are the characters strong enough to make you care for them. It’s on par with lesser YA adaptions like Divergent.
I’m glad you’re here, we really needed the romance angle.
Instead of creating a vibrant story that stands on its own, we’re introduced to all the tired tropes of this genre as they jump through the proper hoops needed to get things moving along, but we never really care about what happens to anybody. Despite the saving grace of the Maze itself, with its visually stunning setting that’s always enticing to the eye, the overall story just putters along until the kids find out THE TRUTH (another tired trope this film shares with Divergent). But even the reveal at the end is a letdown that leads to more questions that can only be answered by the sequel (and one is supposedly coming). If you’re looking for a far superior adaptation of a YA (YA! YA!) book, check out The Hunger Games, instead. –SF