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The Maze Runner




The Maze Runner (PG-13)
Film Reviews: September 25, 2014

09/25/14
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



 A teen finds himself in a kind of menacing Neverland in the middle of a giant maze in The Maze Runner, an exhausting and aggravating adventure tale based on a YA novel.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) awakens in a freight elevator that moves up into the light of a sunny day. When it stops, he sees the faces of a large group of boys (aged, say, 11 to 18 maybe?) staring at him. One of them, Gally (Will Poulter), calls him “greenie” and tries to haul him out of the elevator. Thomas — who doesn’t yet remember that “Thomas” is his name — takes off. Eventually, though, the boys calm him down enough to explain what’s up: Thomas is in a place called “the Glade,” where dozens of other boys also live. Each of them showed up, one per month, the same way he did over the last three years. Eventually their names come back to them, but otherwise they remember nothing of their lives before this or anything that hints at what or where the Glade is. They have some food and supplies and build and farm other food and supplies. Surrounding this grassy and forested area where they live are massive walls, and beyond the walls is a maze. Each day, runners go out into the maze to try to map it, looking for a way out. Each night, the doors to the maze close and the runners must be inside — or be eaten (or killed or something) by monsters they call “grievers.” Though there appear to be a great gaggle of boys living in the Glade, the only ones that matter for our purposes are Gally, the hot-head tough guy; Alby (Aml Ameen), the leader; Minho (Ki Hong Lee), head of the runners; Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), the exposition guy, and Chuck (Blake Cooper), the little one. 
Like all YA protagonists ever, Thomas is Different. He’s curious and wants to know more about the maze. When Alby and Minho don’t come back after a run, he rushes in right before the doors close to rescue them. Also like all YA protagonists ever, things start to change when Thomas shows up. There’s the appearance of a boy, not seen for a while I guess, who has some kind of mysterious, veiny malady. There are the events of Thomas’ night in the maze. And then, there’s the unscheduled rise of the elevator, this time containing a girl (Kaya Scodelario). 
I haven’t read the book — and shouldn’t have to as a prerequisite for the movie — but the final third of The Maze Runner felt a bit like having a book read to me. Read to me fast, with pages skipped and action summed up, as though the reader just realized we were about to be kicked out of the library and had to wrap this storytime up. I was interested enough in this movie’s setup — the Glade, the interplay of the characters, the suggestion that some of the boys might actually prefer the Glade (and the sense of security and identity it offers) to escape. But the more the movie piled on obstacles and conflicts, the less I found myself caring. The maze, the grievers, the unseen force controlling it all, veinitis, escape — the story piled on the elements without really delving into any of the elements it started with. Perhaps these elements will all be needed in the sequel that the movie seems so intent on setting up (and that, according to Wikipedia, is already in pre-production). But an even better way of serving the sequel might have been to make me care about this movie and its characters, and ultimately I didn’t. The movie’s final act, its big reveal of exactly what is going on, is a hurried mess of story stuff — exposition hamfistedly delivered, intra-Glader violence that feels very much out of left field, an overarching backstory that is just a lot to care about. When the movie ended, I felt no urge to read the book, to see these characters in future adventures or even have any of my many questions answered. I was just glad to see it end. C
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and some disturbing images. Directed by Wes Bell with a screenplay by Noah Oppenheim and Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin (from a novel by James Dashner), The Maze Runner is an hour and 53 minutes long and distributed by 20th Century Fox. 
 





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