On the Silver Screen – The Maze Runner

Oct 12, 2014 | Posted by in Movies

Another young adult book series is adapted into a film franchise with The Maze Runner. Apparently this is the first of 3 books so we can expect 4 films in total from this franchise if prior examples remain consistent.

This particular story involves a teenage heartthrob named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) who finds himself deposited in a community made up squarely of young boys with his memory erased. The other kids have built a functioning farming community that lives in fear of the shadow of a huge maze right next to their settlement. Nobody really knows anything about the maze but they know that it’s full of creatures called Grievers that keep them scared and prevent them from asking too many questions.

As always with these premises the first real question is “How did a world like this come to exist?” and the answer is usually fairly laughable. This example is no exception, when it’s finally explained what happened to make the kids live this way it makes no sense and raises far too many questions as you might expect.

The Maze RunnerTo this film’s credit it’s actually fairly light on the exposition and opens very well. The opening scene is a confused Thomas in an elevator raising him to the idyllic community he spends most of the film inhabiting. There’s a nice touch of atmosphere to this moment and the film doesn’t directly answer all of Thomas’ questions right away. Instead the mystery is dangled in front of the audience for a quite a while before any definitive answers start to appear. For the most part this is done pretty well and the mystery is engaging enough. The highlights of the film come when Thomas ventures into the maze and is confronted by the Grievers who actually look pretty damn intimidating. There’s lots of urgency to the scenes featuring them and they seem like a really credible threat to those around them.

The production design is really good as well. The Maze looks huge, dark and intimidating with lots of shadowy areas and darkened corners. Wes Ball does a great job of framing the fast and frantic action sequences in this setting. It’s a great contrast with the farming community just outside. None of the film looks cheap either, something I found to be surprisingly impressive.

Another thing setting this film apart from the rest of the Young Adult pack is characters that are more than one dimensional. Thomas is an interesting presence who is clearly fearful yet curious and angry at the situation he’s in. He’s frustrated that those around them don’t care about being given answers. Blake Cooper’s Chuck and Ki Hong Lee’s Minho are really good characters as well. The rest are fairly forgettable but having 3 characters worth following is better than having none ala Divergent.

Many of the inherent flaws in these types of stories show up here too. We have the vapid and pointless love interest in the form of Kaya Scodelario’s Teresa who shows up so late in the film that it really makes no difference. There are some knowing looks that imply a past and future romance between her and Thomas but she adds so little to the story that there was no real need for her at all. Another issue is that the community is full of teenagers or younger who have all learned to get along, establish a hierarchy and are capable of acting maturely in an environment where they have no support, are under constant threat of attack and are left entirely to their own devices. Not saying that teenagers are incapable of such a thing but I would expect there to be more conflict than was seen in the film. The dialogue was also a little stilted and obviously profound.

The film really falls apart around halfway through, the mystery and intrigue are exchanged for action and half baked answers. The action was good but I was left missing the time when I didn’t know what brought society to turn into this. As is often the case with a mystery, the answers are rarely fulfilling. Towards the end it felt like there were several better opportunities to end the film than the one they went with which is probably how the book ended.

  • 6/10
    The Maze Runner - 6/10


A surprising engaging adaptation of a Young Adult novel with a solid first half full of mystery and intrigue. There are a handful of genuinely well developed characters in the story and some really good action beats as well as impressive production design. A poor second half brings the film down a lot with unfulfilling answers to the questions posed and a really weak ending.