Movie review: ‘The Maze Runner’
THE MAZE RUNNER
Directed By Wes Ball
Starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Dexter Darden, Patricia Clarkson
Rated PG-13, Sci-fi, 113 minutes
This film is a “Lord of the Flies” descendant that adapts the first book in James Dashner’s trilogy. The author’s young-adult series debuted in 2007 with “The Maze Runner.”
Directed By Wes Ball, the film moves along at a steady clip, opening with a loud, clanking sound and a blackened screen. A moment later, diffused light reveals a teen awakening aboard a quickly ascending freight elevator. His confusion is deepened when the elevator stops and he is greeted by two dozen teenage males.
The lad has arrived at “The Glade,” a bucolic setting of several acres. Largely meadow, the compound includes a small woods. The Glade’s most surprising features are six-story, concrete walls surrounding it on all sides.
We learn about the circumstances of these teens through the new arrival, Thomas (portrayed by Dylan O’Brien), who is riveted by the towering walls and a tall door that opens each morning. It leads to a mysterious maze. Seemingly inescapable, the maze is mapped each day by a handful of runners who scout the labyrinth for a way out.
Neither Thomas nor any of the Gladers are able to remember anything, beyond their names, prior to awakening aboard the same freight elevator that brought them there.
During the three years since the first arrival the boys have received a new recruit and supplies from the elevator monthly. The Glade, now their home, offers a nighttime haven from “Grievers,” giant, venomous robotic spiders that overrun the maze after dark.
It’s soon apparent that Thomas’ arrival signals a change to the Gladers’ routine. Not only does Thomas insist escape is possible, but the Grievers now appear in the maze by day, twice stinging the runners inside it.
The community, managed by benevolent early arrivers Alby and Newt (Aml Ameen and Thomas Brodie-Sangster), is well organized and relatively peaceful, considering all the testosterone involved. The one exception is community enforcer Gally (Will Poulter), who uses any means at his disposal to ward off any change to the arrangement.
While Gally fills the role of antagonist, Thomas finds allies in head runner Minho (Ki Hong Lee), glade leader Newt (who endorses an escape attempt), the youngest Glader Chuck (Blake Cooper) and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the Glade’s first and only girl, arriving just two days after Thomas.
Sufficiently engrossing to cause our dismissal of several lingering questions (such as the boys’s general complacency), the film next sets about developing Thomas’ character.
The movie’s action sequences play on our inherent arachnophobia and are further enhanced by the maze’s passages, which change nightly.
The film’s resolution is largely a clumsy reveal that leads the franchise directly into chapter two, having answered only some of the questions it posed. Though the bridge built between the two films feels much like a television season cliffhanger, the film does enough right that young adult science fiction fans will return for more. My one regret is that the story kills off my favorite character, the maze.