Young adult sci-fi adaptations have run rampant since “The Hunger Games,” and “The Maze Runner” is the latest attempt to copy that model and hook the same audience. James Dashner’s tale of young boys trapped in a glade surrounded by a giant maze is much simpler than “Hunger Games,” so while it can’t achieve anywhere near the kind of character depth, it certainly has a chance to be as entertaining.
Viewers are advised to look to “Maze Runner” for a fun, sci-fi themed, mystery-driven movie. Director Wes Ball gets the most out of it in this sense; he knows how to use the camera to add intensity to a story. He will undoubtedly go on to make more good action movies. As for building the emotional connection, however, it’s almost entirely absent, though a lot of this can be attributed to the script, which favors plot points over character-building moments.
To be fair, there’s a lot of explaining required in “Maze Runner” as with much of the futuristic sci-fi bestsellers. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) awakens in an elevator shaft that takes him to the Glade, where he’s greeted by an entire village of boys who live surrounded by a mysterious maze. All of them arrived just as he did, with no knowledge of anything that happened to them before they got there, but they believe they need to find a way out. Especially curious, Thomas starts a chain reaction of events that lead to some answers.
Although Thomas spends a lot of screen time with each of the boys he meets in the Glade – including Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster of “Game of Thrones”), Gally (Will Poulter), Alby (Aml Ameen), Chuck (Blake Cooper), Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and eventually a girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), whose arrival really shakes things up – they mostly talk about the plot together, or explain things to the audience about the maze or any of the mysteries surrounding it. The few character-building moments are really wedged in. O’Brien is perfectly likable as Thomas, as are most of the others, but “Maze Runner” clearly leans on its premise and entertainment value.
That’s okay, because it has enough of an intriguing mystery, enough creative art direction and enough of a dark and creepy factor to pass muster with folks over the age of 18. Those who haven’t read the entire series will likely find a less-than-satisfying ending, but these stories are written in threes these days (with the third part split in half, of course). Fans of the books will be a bit surprised by some of the changes, but ultimately should feel the story stays true to the spirit of Dashner’s books.
The Maze Runner
Directed by Wes Ball
Written by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, T.S. Nowlin, James Dashner (novel)
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario