I had no prior knowledge of this film’s plot and with that I had no expectations of what to expect apart from the trailer and the general consensus it would be another YA (young adult) dystopia flick, of course it is but gladly this movie takes a more mature journey into the crowded market of these kind of stories and with some adrenaline fuelled scenes and strong performances along the way it bursts through as a hit.
After being put into a metal lift and waking up amongst a sunlit green landscape a boy (Dylan O’Brien) who can’t remember his name or how he got there founds out he’s one of many lads sent to this place over the last three years. Circling their grassy home is a towering stone maze which the new guy or ‘greenie’ wants to find out more about but only the designated ‘runners’ venture into the maze to map it and discover an exit. The ‘glade’ they call home is of course hiding a bigger secret and it’s up to the new guy and the others to try and break through the maze and get out.
It’s so good to see a refreshingly dark take on a story that could have been dumbed down for tween audiences. The bold and sometime bloody consequences of this quite worrying place they live in makes it an exciting movie to watch unfold. There are scary or at least unsettling moments aplenty for a 12A and weird ‘grievers’ stalking the maze aren’t the only disconcerting aspects of it all. The arrival of a new figure is cause for much commotion and his influence overshadows their way of life and three rules bringing about that curtain of uncertainty and mild anarchy as the large settlement start breaking apart.
It’s fascinating scenery and the look of the maze itself is a fine and fantastic job. Whether it’s studio or CGI based doesn’t matter because as walls and metal shards shift and change you buy the terrifying instability of it and hold your breath as the ‘runners’ attempt to get through. The ‘grievers’ are most definitely not real but their sludge and spider like appearance is pretty dark and horrible which added to the nightmare world of this sky-scraping maze causes a lot of room for dark sequences.
This movie does get you pumped up in terms of chasing and running. As the new guy or Thomas, not much of a spoiler joins the crew you feel psyched with them as they career like maniacs through this maze in the vain hope to uncover some way out. It’s shot so well, especially as Thomas and Minho hurtle past moving barriers from a normally unopened section. It’s a feeling of the movie in a few places of fast paced tension to match the world they inhabit.
The whole time you’re waiting for the pay off and this reveal of a secret or group behind something and that’s no surprise because it comes with this genre territory but upon finding out what is really going on, you feel amazed and a cool little twist of appearances and deceptions, if you haven’t read the book that is. There’s a clear set up for a follow up but I actually look forward to it as the next trial may bring another batch of exciting and dark scenarios.
O’Brien is a great lead and demonstrates determined gusto in his quest to get out. The emotional side of him is done well too as it shows more character and makes the moment he is showing that for much sadder; another case of how mature this film can be…I won’t spoil that part for you. Will Poulter plays a guy called Gally and though he’s not bad, he portrays that possible side of things really well. It’s clear he knows no better and as he tries to take over and keep order you topple back and forth into thinking what you’d do in his shoes. Blake Cooper who plays the youngest ‘glader’ is fun and inspiring and his little backdrop reason of his whittled man gives him time to shine. Kaya Scodelario doesn’t have much to do here but convinces as this scared and then helpful girl and maybe she’ll show more dimensions in the sequel.
The string of ‘Maze Runner’ words can sometimes get annoying as ‘glader’, ‘grievers’, ‘the changing’, ‘the pit’ and others get bandied around a lot. It is an exhilarating adventure on the most part but it takes a gentle while to get going, unless touring the glade and seeing dreamy visions of Thomas’ past do it for you. It is of course stuffed with chiseled guys for the target female audience to swoon over but hopefully the darker angle and masculine cast will appeal to men as aside from obvious allusions to oppressive government manipulations it has dynamic action sequences.
Enough tension and excitement to make it feel like a summer hit even if we are into the oncoming doom of cold autumn. Character work and fun filled running will do more than enough to make you not despise the fact there is a sequel, it will hopefully as with me, make you look forward to it.