UK Release Date: 10th October 2014
Runtime: 113 minutes
Director: Wes Ball
Writer: Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, TS Nowlin
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee
Synopsis: A group of teen boys find themselves in a mysterious field, surrounded on all sides by a seemingly inescapable maze.
For what seems like the millionth time this year, another young adult adaptation with franchise aspirations is vying for money at the box office. With an almost entirely male cast, The Maze Runner separates itself from the likes of Divergent and The Hunger Games, but still packs the same brand of dystopian high concept. It’s not at the top of its genre, but The Maze Runner is still an entertaining and intriguing action-adventure movie.
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up with no memory in a metal box. He soon arrives in the Glade, where he is greeted by Alby (Aml Ameen) – leader of a group of young boys stranded there – and confrontational older teen Gally (Will Poulter). Thomas immediately takes an interest in exploring the vast maze surrounding the Glade to try to work out why he is there, but things are complicated by the arrival of the camp’s first girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario).
The YA genre is now becoming so prevalent in cinema that a template is beginning to form. It is into that template that The Maze Runner fits rather snugly. As a result, its first 45 minutes are full to the brim with exposition. This renders it all a little plodding and pedestrian as director Wes Ball works to establish the roster of characters and the universe of the Glade.
| "I think it’s time we find out what we’re really up against."
Despite its rather generic trappings, The Maze Runner benefits from a handful of very solid performances. Dylan O’Brien really grows into the part as the film goes on and Will Poulter – winner of the BAFTA Rising Star Award this year – is so good that he seems to have stumbled in from a much better film.
As is often the case, though, in opening franchise entries, there are many impressive performers who get very little time on screen. Thomas Brodie-Sangster promises much more as second-in-command Newt and Kaya Scodelario barely gets a line; she’s essentially just a plot device.
The Maze Runner is at its strongest when it delves deeper into its titular environment. The environs of the maze house the answers to the film’s intriguing mystery, but they also provide a hiding place for terrifying mechanical monsters. Feature debutant Ball shows great skill in managing these action sequences, weaving the film towards its utterly ridiculous conclusion.
| "Everything started changing the moment you showed up."
Even in its most stupid moments, The Maze Runner consistently retains the momentum it gains as soon as it flips the switch on its action sequences. The central mystery is intriguing enough to carry the film through to its conclusion, even if the final twist is more likely to induce guffaws than gasps.
Pop or Poop?
It’s not on the level of The Hunger Games, or even this year’s surprisingly strong Divergent, but The Maze Runner is a pretty decent addition to the rapidly expanding canon of YA adaptations.
Strong performances and an intriguing central mystery keep excitement levels high, but a silly ending and a pedestrian opening act prevent it from being the film it could’ve been.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.