The Maze Runner

Director: Wes Ball

Starring: Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Dylan O’Brien

Rated: PG-13 (thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images)

Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

 

The Maze Runner

By Cole Schneider

First time feature-length director Wes Ball (his action short, “Ruin” can be found on YouTube) really surprised me with “The Maze Runner”. The story follows a group of adolescents isolated from society. Unlike fellow teen dystopian literature “Lord of the Flies” or “The Hunger Games”, “The Maze Runner” finds its kids working in relative harmony, with a makeshift government and rules that would mark a decent civilization. Everything changes, however, when a boy named Thomas shows up. Enclosed on all sides by an eerie maze with nightmarish creatures called grievers patrolling at night, Thomas takes radical steps to begin finding answers beyond the walls, shunning the way-of-life the others had built in favor of moving into the unknown.

The beginning of the film is excellent. The narrative, visuals, and audio all work together to create an appropriately ominous experience. The score and the sound effects bring the psychological unsettlement that it wants as there is barely a moment in the film without a cricket or wind blending with the slow-to-build score to create maximum unease. Visually, the maze is confining, the grievers scary, and the overall design of a singular piece.

Narratively, it opens with intrigue building to deeper intrigue. For over an hour, “The Maze Runner” is as good as the Teen/Young Adult genre gets treating its audience like adults, without much emotional pandering or redundant exposition. Ultimately though, the ride is far better than the destination and the final third of the film falls into uninspired predictability. Meanwhile, the characters were never as fully engaging as the tone or feel the film was offering. Still, the film succeeds where similar attempts (see spring’s “Divergent”) have failed.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 

The Maze Runner

By Matt Greene

We are inundated with scifi young adult films based on books. Rarely do the terms “provocative” and “teen entertainment” fit in the same sentence with these movies. Maze Runner, however, with its Lord of the Flies inspired world and its “Lost” like mystery, overcomes its own muted tone and tired genre to be a surprisingly engaging outing. Would it be better if it had a more experienced and assured auteur behind the wheel? Absolutely, but the unique premise and twisting plot make for highly enjoyable fall movie-going.

The film opens in fantastically bleak fashion, with our hero unknowingly stuck in a mysterious elevator which takes him to a land of other abandoned teenage boys, all enclosed by a giant dangerous maze. As he begins to learn what kind of world he is in, so do we, with the mystery and plot endlessly twisting and turning. Through some overly melodramatic but otherwise good performances, the movie takes us and our hero on a journey through scifi genres: the chosen one, zombie lore, Indiana Jones like action. It all culminates in some intense set-pieces and surprising story choices, which is more than we often get in this type of adolescent adventure.

My affection for this film could be from my soft-spot for any scifi film that, at the very least, tries to be unique and surprising. The world is complete and well-realized, there is a believable premise, some cool insect-robot monsters, and even cool questions about the essence of identity. So even though much of the actual filmmaking is a bit by-the-numbers, the unraveling plot is a bunch of fun.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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