Release Date: 09/19/2014
Director: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O’Brien (Thomas), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Newt), Will Poulter (Gally), Kaya Scodelario (Teresa), Ki Hong Lee (Minho), Blake Cooper (Chuck), Aml Ameen (Alby), Dexter Darden (Frypan), Jacob Latimore (Jeff), Alexander Flores (Winston)
Review Grade at the bottom.
There has been a deluge of YA book adaptations make their way to the big screen over the past few years. It all started with Harry Potter and then when Twilight hit gold yet again, the number of YA adaptations skyrocketed. It seemed that every couple of months there was a new one. This year alone I can think of five already. Of them all, the majority are not particularly good. As such, I didn’t have very high hopes for The Maze Runner. I simply hoped that it wouldn’t be a total disaster and I was pleasantly surprised that I really enjoyed the movie. Yes, there were some flaws and very blatant and obvious plot holes, but the movie managed to make up for it in other ways. The result was a movie that I am going to recommend to everyone who likes action science fiction (namely dystopian). That said, if you are weary on both YA and dystopians, there is probably nothing I can say to change your mind about the movie. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun.
YA adaptations have become a common trend in the past years. With the fruits of their labor coming to fruition, there have been so many that have been emerging as of late. The Maze Runner has broken the general quality that we see with these movies and is actually entertaining. What some people will find unfortunate is the fact that this is yet another dystopian setting.
Adaptations need to change things. It is absolutely necessary in order to keep the story moving at a pace that will be interesting for the audience. Things are cut and altered and adjusted to make the film as effective as possible. I’ll admit that at the time of writing this, I have not finished reading the book, but from what I have read it is very clear that there are quite a number of changes and tweaks. While a number of the tweaks work in favor of the story the movie presents others do not. Alby being presented as a nicer guy is a good thing. Thomas not coming off as quite so unpleasant and abrasive. Those are positives. However, the change in how the Gladers rules work was a mix of negative and positive. What I found was that a number of the changes didn’t work as smoothly as they hoped.
Some of the changes just didn’t make sense for the story. The main one being the treatment of Ben after a Griever attack compared to how Alby was treated. Yes, they had different standings among the Gladers, but it didn’t quite make sense. This paired with how the Griever sting affected them also posed a bit of a plot problem. From what I’ve read in the book, the difference in behavior makes a lot more sense. Unfortunately, the movie changed things up and didn’t patch up the plot holes that were created. Thankfully, there weren’t too many instances in which you were drastically distracted by one of the plot holes to hinder total enjoyment of the film, though it will leave you wondering.
One of the things that the movie did the best was generate tension. It is rare that I find myself impacted by the tension of a scene. It is even more rare that I catch myself not breathing then gasping for air because I am so caught up in a scene. Somehow, The Maze Runner managed to make me anxious and desperate for the characters to get out okay. It is a testament to how well the action scenes are composed. You feel the rush and fear that the characters are experiencing. It also speaks to the action sequences in the film. When you see a Griever coming after one of the characters you feel the desperation to get to safety. Aside from one scene that was meant to elicit chaos and panic, but was too easy to lose track of characters, action was well done.
The characters were made endearing and unique. However with the massive cast made for little time to get to know a large chunk of the characters. Thomas is the main character, closely followed by Minho and Newt. Then there’s Chuck, Gally, Frypan, Alby, Jeff, Ben, Winston, and Teresa. That isn’t even all the characters, but the ones that have the biggest roles. It is a lot of characters that are always together and don’t always get enough time to build out their characters. I know Frypan is a big guy who runs the kitchen and always wears an apron, but other than that I know nothing. Same for Jeff, except that he’s a medic. One could argue that these characters don’t have their memories so there is nothing to reveal, but that isn’t true. They all have personalities, but they don’t all get to shine through. That said, Thomas, Minho, Gally, and Chuck are probably the most fleshed out characters. With each of them we really get a chance to see their motivations and what drives them. That makes them more engaging, so when they find themselves in trouble it means more. This is done effectively at least twice in the movie where a tragic event takes away a character that you feel for.
Which brings me to Teresa, the lone female. In a story in which a location is filled with teenage boys and there is one female suddenly thrown into the mix, things could potentially get nasty. Rude comments hurled or tensions running wild. While Teresa’s appearance definitely disrupted the status quo, there was never anything in the film depicted as disrespectful, which was a breath of fresh air. There were no longing stares or moments that would make me fear for her safety. Instead, they treated her like one of the other guys for the most part (except for them laughing at how crazy she was in one of the more lighthearted moments). I love when a story can introduce a girl like this and no relationships are just suddenly formed. The focus remained on getting out of the maze and surviving the Grievers despite her appearance.
One can call the ending to The Maze Runner a twist, but I’d have to argue against it. From the very beginning we know that something is wrong. None of the boys have their memories. As the story goes on, we get more and more questions being raised as others are slowly answered. It creates an environment that we can slowly see is being meticulously controlled with the Gladers having very little real control of the situation. There is no illusion that things aren’t right in the maze and all the characters know it. So when we finally reach the height of the third act, we’ve been given blatant hints and clues as to what is actually going on and our assumptions are confirmed. It is a breath of fresh air that the twist wasn’t meticulously hidden from us so as to be a devastating surprise from left field.
The Maze Runner elicits a feel that is somewhat similar to the feel of The Hunger Games. The Maze Runner elicits a feeling of being trapped while searching for hope. While it has deviated from the book, in most cases it has done so in order to make the film stronger, with only a few detriments. The result was a movie that was a lot of fun. It’s one that leaves you with close for the events that just happened, yet longing to find out what happens next. The Maze Runner does what most other YA films can’t, it entertains without becoming cheesy. I got to see this movie early, but you can bet that I will be going to watch it again when it comes out, take that as you will.
What did you think of the movie?