The Maze Runner Review
Movies based on young adult novels are a dime a dozen. Much like the superhero genre, there are several that seem to be released each year. Even though "The Hunger Games" is getting ready to conclude itself onscreen, it doesn't seem like this adult novel craze is going anywhere in Hollywood. Shame, it never seems like Hollywood ever had a good handle on it. Much like Marvel between the years of 2003 and 2008, it seems the need to get every movie based upon a young adult novel series green lit. It also doesn't seem like Hollywood cares about logic, development or anything else that makes a movie good. I won't say I am an expert on the young adult novel, because I am not. All I am saying is that not everything translates out on the big screen as it does on the pages of a book. I think because of this, there have been more misfires in this budding genre than successes.
With that said, it seems "The Maze Runner" may have more in common with "The Hunger Games" or "Harry Potter" than it does "Divergent" or "Twilight." "The Maze Runner" makes good use of its young cast, that seems to come from nearly every part of the globe. It is a cast that is rich in diversity, and that elevates the movie just a bit. Not only that, but it seems "The Maze Runner" is a young adult novel translation for adults. This is a gritty, gritty picture at times. There are very few moments of solid humor in the film, and there are absolutely no cornball one-liners or cutie-pie scenery. "The Maze Runner" is driven by its performances, its character and its story. Honestly, you don't know how refreshing that is to see.
A boy named Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) is transported to a mysterious camp ground known as The Glade. Once Thomas is in The Glade, he is greeted by a group of boys who have been living in The Glade for the last three years. Their encampment is secluded by huge stone walls, and it doesn't seem like there is any way of leaving The Glades. The boys' leader is Alby (Aml Ameen) and his enforcer is Gally (Will Poulter) and they have created a fair, balanced community in The Glades. None of the boys have many memories of their lives before The Glade, and Thomas is determined to find out how they got there. Thomas gains his memories back a much more rapid pace that anyone else. Thomas wants to leave The Glade, but everyone else is comfortable living there.
Even though right next to their encampment is a ever-changing maze and inside the maze are The Grievers, which are huge, deadly, mechanical monsters who are kill the boys if they try to get through the maze. Alas, Alby has chosen two "runners" who run through the maze, gathering clues on how they could possibly leave The Glade and hopefully go back to whatever life they had. Alby and Gally maintain a strict hierarchy over the camp, and everybody is comfortable with the job they are given within The Glade. That all changes when Thomas ventures into the maze and kills a Griever.
If you can imagine a mixture between "The Hunger Games" and "Lord of the Flies," that is essentially "The Maze Runner." The movie makes expert use of its young cast, and I believe Dylan O'Brien, Aml Ameen and Will Poulter all do outstanding work in their appropriate roles. The cinematography by Enrique Chediak is lush and beautiful, making worth of the intense scenery of the movie. This is a smart script for all of these artists to work with, and it makes for a great time.
Not only are O'Brien, Ameen and Poulter all good, but much of the cast is very good. I think "The Maze Runner" will benefit from having a wide array of characters one might call their favorite, and I think that will vary with each person. Some people might like Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) the only woman to appear at The Glade and who is mysteriously connected to Thomas. Some people might like Chuck (Blake Cooper) the cute character these movies all have who is treated as a character and mostly not a cliché. Some people will dig Minho (King Hong Lee), who is the Keeper of Runners and has several awesome scenes. This movie is ripe with not only great characters, but great performances to match them.
As the film began to wind down, and I saw how the ending was setting up for the next adventure, I have to say I was anticipating what was coming next. That didn't happen for me when I saw "Divergent" or "Twilight," or "The Golden Compass" or "The Seeker" or the other endless hoarde of adult novel films. I wish these studios would take a step back and look at how "The Maze Runner" was created for inspiration. "The Maze Runner" doesn't match the awesome of "The Hunger Games" but it comes close. That alone is pretty cool.
FINAL GRADE: B