The Maze Runner
dir Wes Ball
scr Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, TS Nowlin
prd Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Lee Stollman, Lindsay Williams
with Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Dexter Darden, Chris Sheffield, Joe Adler, Alexander Flores, Patricia Clarkson
release US 19.Sep.14, UK 10.Oct.14
14/US Fox 1h53
The Maze Runner
Ready to run: O'Brien and Scodelario

poulter brodie-sangster clarkson
See also:
The Scorch Trials (2015) The Death Cure (2018)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Maze Runner Based on the first in James Dashner's trilogy of novels, this is yet another adventure about plucky teens who stand up to a dystopian system and discover things about themselves. What sets this apart is its resolutely boyish approach, like Lord of the Flies crossed with The Cube. But while the intrigue is strong, the plot is very thin.

Thomas (O'Brien) wakes up with no memories in the Glade, the monthly arrival among three dozen boys who have created a mini-society inside four high walls. When doors open, runners dart through to map a vast maze beyond, guarded by killers called grievers. Thomas' unusual curiosity, bravery and ingenuity threaten paranoid leader Gally (Poulter), so he allies himself with runners Alby and Minho (Ameen and Lee), as well as Gally's second-in-command Newt (Brodie-Sangster) and cheery youngster Chuck (Cooper). Then Theresa (Scodelario) arrives with a note that says, "She is the last one EVER."

This is one of those stories that dribbles information slowly. Dialog is packed with bits of mythology ("That's what we call 'the changing'") to bring Thomas and the audience up to speed, just before the ground begins to shift for the characters. Clearly something momentous is happening in the Glade, and the group divides among those who prefer to wait in perceived safety and those who want to run for freedom.

All of this feels belaboured, even in the final sequence when questions are answered (and others raised). O'Brien is a charismatic presence, believable as both a natural leader and a leading man who can generate interest in future episodes. He gets solid support from rising-star Brits Scodelario, Brodie-Sangster and Poulter, even if their characters are underdeveloped. Poulter has an especially strong presence, but is left hanging in a one-note role.

In the end, it's difficult to escape that fact that there isn't much to this film. It lacks the political and personal heft of The Hunger Games, hewing closer to less-cogent franchises like Divergent and The Giver as a parable about a young person's voyage to discovery in a world that destroyed itself and rebuilt a badly flawed society from the ashes. Director Ball avoids the more provocative aspects of this purely masculine atmosphere, and shoots and edits the action in a frustratingly incomprehensible style. But the ending raises curiosity about where it goes next.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 7.Oct.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall