Running Time: 1 hour 53 minutes
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is jolted awake by the clanging of an industrial elevator, unaware of who he is or where he is going. When the doors are flung open, he finds himself in the middle of an open field surrounded by a couple of dozen teenage boys staring at him intently. He learns that they are all stranded in this glade at the center of a giant maze. The boys have formed some semblance of a society, working together to make shelters and grow food while a small number of them explore the Maze every day hoping to find a way out. If the runners get trapped in the Maze at night, they are hunted and killed by roving monsters known as Grievers. After Thomas’ arrival, the Maze and the Grievers become more aggressive, attacking the runners during the daytime and demolishing the settlement at night forcing the inhabitants of the Glade to make a life or death escape attempt.
This is the latest in a recent glut of teen-centric dystopian future/Sci-fi/Fantasy books that have been adapted into films. While I had been growing tired of this trend, The Maze Runner did a good job of rekindling my interest, and I found it very enjoyable. I think it belongs in the same group as The Hunger Games films (although not quite as emotionally effective) and Warm Bodies rather than the secondary group of clunkers like The Mortal Instruments and Beautiful Creatures.
First off, I think the casting was great. There are a lot of very interesting young actors in this film (especially during a time when the young actresses seem so much more dynamic). O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter are all capable and worthy contributors in a movie that asks for a lot of range from its cast. Even when the lone female (Kaya Scodelario) is introduced to the Glade, the movie resists the obvious temptation to make her an object of lust, or a trophy for the young men to fight over and allows her to integrate into the group with her gender being a relative afterthought.
I also really appreciated the detail that was put into the set design and the digital effects, primarily the Maze. Simple things like showing the weathering and damage on the concrete walls and the rust on the metal made the environment feel so much more real to me which allowed me to sink even deeper into the story.
I didn’t like that the ending of the film leaves you with more questions than answers. I understand that there is a hope that this film births a franchise, but most really great serial storytelling allows for the possibility of continuation while still providing some resolution for the audience a la Star Wars: A New Hope, The Hunger Games, and all of the Marvel Movies. Each film could stand alone if it needed to, but it leaves a small door open that can lead to another story. The ending to The Maze Runner left me feeling like I only finished chapter 7 in a 10 chapter book. B