After the success of The Hunger Games it’s not too surprising that Hollywood rushed to put similarly themed movies into production, such as Divergent and now The Maze Runner. While nearly all the knock-offs of Twilight, and indeed Harry Potter, were pretty rubbish, The Maze Runner isn’t bad at all.
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up in a metal cage that’s rising out of the ground. He has no idea who he is or how he got there but finds himself thrust into the strange world of The Glade, where every month for three years a new young man has arrived, also with no idea what they’re doing there. A society led by Gally (Will Poulter) has arisen, bound by rules supposed to keep them alive.
The only clue they have is that the Glade is surrounded by a massive stone maze, which boys known as ‘runners’ are attempting to map, supposedly in the hope of discovering an exit.
However it appears things are changing with the arrival of Thomas, not least that the monsters that live in the maze – bio-mechanical beasts known as Greavers – are no longer only venturing out at night, and have started attacking the runners during the day. Then something very unexpected happens – a girl (Kaya Scodelario) is thrust into their midst, holding a note saying she will be the last one ever to arrive.
While Gally wants to keep the status quo – fearing that any changes will end up with the death of them all – Thomas is determined to find out what is going on and figure a way out of the maze.
The Maze Runner is a good looking movie with a talented young cast and a story that has plenty to offer. That said, the script could have done with a little tweaking, as it takes a while to get going and perhaps doesn’t build the world of the Glade particularly well, at least at the beginning. This means that for the first half hour or so it’s difficult to really feel invested in what’s going on. It also means that while the film is giving us loads of admittedly necessary exposition in order to explain what’s going on, it feels a little clumsy and unwieldy.
However once it’s got that out of the way it improves massively, with the threat from both the Greavers and the changes in the Glade building real tension. Director Wes Ball also manages to create some great action scenes, and eventually the relationships between the characters come to the fore and the whole movie turns into a great ride.
Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien is a strong core to the movie, and Ball surrounds him with plenty of other talented young people, from Kaya Scodelario and Will Poulter to the excellent Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Aml Ameen.
I was concerned that at the end the whole thing was going to come to a crashing halt. This sort of film builds itself around a mystery, spending the majority of the running time teasing us as to what’s really going on. It means that when the revelations come about why Thomas and co. are in the Glade, it need to be satisfying. Here I was concerned that the explanations were going to ruin everything the stated reasons for the maze are vaguely nonsensical. Thankfully though the movie throws a last minute bone, suggesting there’s a lot more that’s really going on, and in the process sets things up for the sequels (there are four books in James Dashner’s initial novel series).
The first follow-up, The Scorch Trials, is due out later this year and after the promise of The Maze Runner, it should be well worth watching.
The film looks extremely good on Blu-ray, really showing off Wes Ball’s excellent visual style, which is also present in the short film Ruin (included on the disc), a dystopian piece of CG action that helped the director to get the attention of Hollywood. Alongside that is a good selection of features, ranging from a very good ‘making of…’ documentary to an illuminating look at how they put together the complex special effects in a film that, compared to many movies, didn’t cost that much to make.
Overall Verdict: After a somewhat slow start The Maze Runner builds into an entertaining and exciting slice of sci-fi action. It’s not going to supplant Hunger Games as the premiere dystopian teen franchise, but it’s a good watch.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac