Sometimes I’m too lazy for a full-out piece. Sometimes everything I’ve got to say about a film can be summarized in a sentence or two. Sometimes it’s both. So herewith, a quick-n-dirty on The Maze Runner!
Nutshell: I’d give The Maze Runner a B. It’s an interesting spin on the deluge of post-apocalyptic YA that’s been coming down the pike, and the kids all deliver fine performances. But I couldn’t shake the “Lord of the Flies meets The Hunger Games” mishmosh out of my head, nor the feeling that the filmmakers could have gone beyond the stock character parade.
Before: YA! Whoop! I’ve heard good things about this series of books, so I’m looking forward to this. Sign me up for any and all apocalyptic storytelling y’all. Plus, who doesn’t love Stiles (Dylan O’Brien, Teen Wolf)? The maze itself reminds me of Hogwarts, with it’s ever-shifting staircases. I hope this story isn’t just a compilation of greatest hits that the genre has seen before. Especially since a group of boys living in nature away from everything else feels like Lord of the Flies. Wonder if there’ll be devolution?
During: Nicely done opening scene, with the POV of Thomas (O’Brien) coming up into the maze world. Instant understanding of the confusion and fear these kids must have felt. So this is really a reverse Lord of the Flies; everyone is getting together very well thanks to a “we’re all in this together” code taught to them by teen leader Alby (Aml Ameen, turning in a thoughtful and nuanced performance). Wonder how long that’ll la…oops. Enter Thomas, the latest kid sent up to this forced paradise from the depths of…who knows where. New guy = big changes. Kinda wish director Ball and actor Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) would give antagonist/freakout aficionado Gally more than just knee-jerk reactions to everything. Because right now Gally is just a cardboard cutout typifying fear of the unknown. And that’s gonna get old after awhile.
But it’s good to see Ki Hong Lee (The Nine Lives of Chloe King, and shut up it was good) and Thomas Brodie Sangster (Once Upon a Time), though with so many kids in this cast even the leads get short shrift. And Theresa (Kaya Scodelario, Skins UK) is nothing but “The Girl That Showed Up”. Pity. Another thing; the maze world is stocked with teen and tween boys, but there’s nary a hormone in sight when Teresa shows up. Guess saltpeter is part of the supplies the mysterious “WCKD” sends up monthly.
Okay, there’s a lot of checking out the maze, but even more bickering. It’s like all the back-biting of Lost, but with kids. Any time now I’m expecting Terry O’Quinn to pop up. But once the core group of teens and tweens decide to make a break for it, things wrap up pretty quickly. I’m surprised nobody else tried to do what Thomas figured out Day One. Still, the twist at the end makes me want to know more about this world, but…SPOILER ALERT — how in the bleep did the kids live in such a lush woodland if the sun has reduced the rest of the world to smoke and ash? I’d believe it if their mini-world was in a bio-dome, but as the helicopters fly over, it’s shown to exist in the open air. Holy continuity error, Batman!
After: I could have done without the constant laughter from the peanut gallery behind me. Did a few scenes — especially every single one where Gally was freaking the [RADIO EDIT] out — deserve derision? Sure. But the non-stop chuckles made me wonder who was hoggin’ the dooby back there. Though they did have a point as the credits rolled; “I’ve never seen a movie where so many kids died and I didn’t care about a single one of ’em.” Not 100% true for me, but close. With the scary (and wonderfully designed) Griever monsters in the maze, there are plenty of casualties in The Maze Runner. But there’s not much time to get beyond name, rank and serial number with the cast before the you-know-what hits the fan. That equals a ton of hurt dumped on a ton of kids I haven’t been able to bond with. That’s unfortunate. So is the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad garden the kids are tending in “the Glade”; couldn’t the prop department spring for real plants? I couldn’t stop staring at the fake “grape vines”, so obviously a craft-store purchase that it sucked me right out of the story for the entire scene.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad story, and the actors gave it their all. Here’s hoping the inevitable sequel brings living, breathing characters rather than stock kids that are going through the paces in order to move the story along.