Main cast: Dylan O’Brien (Thomas), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Newt), Kaya Scodelario (Teresa), Will Poulter (Gally), Lee Ki Hong (Minho), Blake Cooper (Chuck), Aml Ameen (Alby), and Patricia Clarkson (Chancellor Ava Paige)
Director: Wes Ball
The Maze Runner is loosely based on the novel of the same name by James Dashner. There are some major plot changes done to this movie, mostly to give it a hybrid action-horror feel, but that’s how it usually is when it comes to movie adaptations of books.
Like the title of the movie would suggest, this one is about kids running for their lives in a maze. Our hero Thomas wakes up one fine day in a cage, elevated in a lift-like device to what seems like a forested plain surrounded by high walls. Incidentally, Dylan O’Brien looks so much like a grown-up Ray Liotta, it’s both distracting and somewhat creepy to watch him for almost two hours. Thomas finds himself among a bunch of teenage boys led by Alby. None of them recall who they were in the past or know why they are here, but they do know one thing: there is a maze behind the single doorway in the wall, and there is something called the Griever lurking in there that ensures nobody survives one night in the maze.
Alby has created an orderly structured existence for these men – there are builders, who set up structures needed for daily life, and then there are the runners led by Minho, who go into the maze at the first light of day to map it and look for a way out, coming back by dusk in time before the doorway closes and the Griever comes out to play. Unlike most of the boys, Thomas doesn’t like being cooped up in there and wishes to escape. Alby is tolerant of his antics, and Thomas soon befriends the earnest token plump kid Chuck, Alby’s second-in command Newt, and Minho. Gally, the resident jock and bully archetype, however, doesn’t like Thomas at all. And then, the lift sends in Teresa, the first female to be in the maze-like place, and she seems to know Thomas. What is going on here? Thomas is perplexed, especially when he has dreams where he seems to be in some kind of lab and Teresa is with him there, while Gally becomes more suspicious of him. Would these boys and the token female ever escape this place?
The biggest problem with The Maze Runner is its paper-thin plot coupled to a lack of coherence. The entire story can be summed up in the phrase, “Well, and things happen.” Why things happen? That’s a tough one. I have better warn you guys: the story ends on a cliffhanger-like note, suggesting a sequel is in the works, so the entire movie is basically kids trying to reenact a toothless version of Lord of the Flies. When they do go into the maze, they reach the exit in a manner that is best described as “anticlimax”. There are many things here that can be seen as plot holes, which may or may not be answered in the sequels. There is enough changed here that reading the books won’t answer the questions, so this movie is basically one long question mark. There may be some small answers by the end of the whole thing, but the movie then drops the probability that all the answers may be a lie anyway, so… wait the sequel?
Also, the script is rather bipolar. It starts out like a dystopian Lord of the Flies, and things seem okay, when it drops the whole thing for a standard man-versus-monsters angle. And then, that one is over too and the credits have begun to roll. The movie tries to do a few things, but does them only halfway, resulting in being neither here nor there.
The characters are all dull at best, annoying at worst. Thomas is said to be special and talented, but I see an annoying scowling face moping and whining, who just happens to be right because most of the others around him are dumber in comparison. Teresa is just there, Alby is the stereotypical Wise Black Guy character, and Gally is the worst cartoon villain ever. When the best-drawn character is one clearly marked to die because those lines that define his character are “when this fellow says that, he’s definitely a goner” clichés, that’s how flat everyone in this movie is. There’s not much eye candy as well. Kaya Scodelario just wants to remind people that she’s Kristen Stewart if you squint a bit, while the lead male actor looks like a 40-year old Ray Liotta impersonator. Ki Hong Lee and Aml Ameen are very easy on the eyes, but they have their clothes on for too much of the film.
The more action-packed scenes of chases and such are pretty watchable, but there aren’t enough of them to sustain the momentum of the film.
At the end of the day, The Maze Runner is an odd duck. It spends quite a lot time being some kind of dystopian drama-cum-thriller, but doesn’t show much character development or plot depths in the meantime. It fares better as a standard sci-fi horror flick, but there’s too little of such element here. The end result is a curiously underdeveloped film that is far from satisfying.