Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) awakens in a box hurtling to an unknown place, with no idea who he is or where he is going. His destination is The Glades, a community populated with young men like himself, and surrounded by an intricate maze that hosts unknown horrors. It’s not long before Thomas decides he wants to join ‘the Runners’, who search the maze for a shot at escape.
Sigh. Aren’t we done with all these YA dystopian future movies yet? The Maze Runner is another movie based on a YA novel, which sees teens having to find their own identity, and survive by forming factions and gangs. Sigh again.
Dylan O’Brien is a handsome young chap, and it is surely this that got him cast in the lead role; he’s fine as Thomas, but little more. The rest of the cast is made up of some phenomenal young actors, including Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario whose characters are not given much depth, but the actors succeed for the most part.
The story feels like a combination of Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, Labyrinth (minus David Bowie) and all of the other dystopian tween moves you have seen in the past. Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin’s screenplay is filled with exposition and overly verbose, overly explanatory dialogue. Mansplaining the Movie? This could well be it.
The film spends so much time and energy on trying to get out of the maze that very little time is given to wonder what the hell is going on in the rest of the world. Kind of a crucial point, since it seems the gang could have survived on their own for an indefinite amount of time.
Wes Ball, as director, gives very little effort into making these characters feel rounded or fleshed out. Instead, they fall into obvious categories – the best friend, the nerd, the bully, the love interest – and that is where they stay for much of the film. Many of the choices made are simply daft – ‘let’s hide from giant, super strong monsters in a shack made of twigs!’ – and visually, the film is well below par. The monsters are familiar in that they looks like a combination of spider robots and the alien from Alien (but less scary), and the maze’s CGI is cheap and ragged.
The Maze Runner, to be fair to it, does not have strong source material to draw from, but this is a film that explains in favour of showing, has thin and unengaging characters and tries to keep the mystery going, but only succeeds in making the audience lose interest. There is another one on the way, so perhaps there will be time to improve, because as it stands, The Maze Runner does nothing to distinguish itself, and is easily forgotten. Patricia Clarkson turns up in it though, so that’s an extra star right there.