When Thomas wakes up trapped in a massive maze with a group of other boys, he has no memory of the outside world other than strange dreams about a mysterious organization known as W.C.K.D. Only by piecing together fragments of his past with clues he discovers in the maze can Thomas hope to uncover his true purpose and a way to escape. Based upon the best-selling novel by James Dashner.
If it seems like there’s been a flood of films based on dystopian young adult books since The Hunger Games came out, it’s because that’s exactly what’s happened. And while The Hunger Games and, to a lesser degree, Divergent have become hits, a slew of other titles have come and gone. This is the market that The Maze Runner finds itself entering, but thanks to a smart take on the material, the film manages to distinguish itself from its YA brethren.
For starters, The Maze Runner‘s plot is relatively straightforward. There are no added elements like a love story (let alone a love triangle) that are otherwise popular in this genre. The film focuses on Thomas discovering the Maze and the Glade at the center of it, and piecing together memories that come in flashes. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for characterization, but that’s okay. It’s more than made up for with a sense of urgency; the film starts with Thomas waking up, and the film easily conveys the panic in which he awakens.
Wes Ball makes his directorial debut here, but with a slew of production and animation credits to his name, he’s well qualified for this type of film. Visually, Ball does a tremendous job at conveying the intensity of the action sequences in both the Maze and the Glade, with scenes involving the Grievers making the most of limited sights of the creatures.
The film does well with its casting, too. While Dylan O’Brien is fine, if a bit blank, in his portrayal of Thomas, the rest of the boys who populate the Glade distinguish enough personality to create a sense of shared history. With a brief performance, though, my favorite cast member has to be Patricia Clarkson as the one adult with any sort of legitimate bit of action in the film.
Unfortunately, the film does fall apart a bit in the third act. Without getting into it too much, there’s a lot of setup for future films. While I expect this film to actually have a sequel, unlike plenty of other similar films, I’m not sure how necessary it was to set things up for a broader series. It’s an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise solid film.