The Maze Runner
UK Release: 10/10/2015
Directed by: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Kaya Scodelario
It’s not often I’m excited about a new Young Adult movie. After all, I managed to completely sidestep the Twilight saga and I’ve only just begun to appreciate The Hunger Games. But I have to admit, my interest was definitely piqued by The Maze Runner.
It’s been touted as an instant success since its release in the USA… and that’s little surprise after a tremendous opening weekend. In fact, its combination of Hunger Games style action and Lord of the Flies tension managed to grab audiences by the throat. And the inevitable sequel was soon green-lit.
But does The Maze Runner live up to the hype?
Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien) awakes to find himself slumped in a rusty old elevator with no idea how he got there. It’s an odd start to a movie and it’s entirely unsettling… but that’s exactly the point. He soon ends up in The Glade – a lush, leafy area that’s inhabited by a tribe of young men, that’s surrounded by a grey, ominous wall. And it’s not long before Thomas finds out that The Glade is actually in the centre of a giant, deadly maze.
Suffering from amnesia, Thomas has no idea about his life outside The Glade… and that’s the trouble – nobody else does, either. All they know is that they’re stuck in the centre of a colossal, stone maze. And you don’t want to know what lurks within.
The incredible opening to The Maze Runner is as baffling as it is brilliant. And although some aspects are a tad predictable (such as the bio-mechanical threats and big brother style surveillance) it’s enough of a teaser to keep you wondering just what’s next. And while it might not be the most original of movies, it certainly keeps the suspense going.
Of course, while The Maze Runner seems to churn out every sci-fi and horror trope in the book, it remains a Young Adult movie… and while you might tire of the obvious inspiration from your favourite classic movie, it’s clear that this is intended for an audience who won’t have seen the myriad of films from which it’s been influenced.
There’s the all the tension of Lord of the Flies with a hint of Jason Bourne, and a great big dollop of The Hunger Games. It even manages to channel H R Geiger’s famous alien from the movie Alien. But while you might be tempted to think of it as a blatant rip-off, it’s a lot more than that.
Unable to come to terms with his arrival in The Glade, Thomas sets out to get to the bottom of what’s really going on… and it’s not long before he ends up proving himself as one of The Glade’s best and brightest – the most athletic of which are made to run the maze in search of a way out.
And this is where The Maze Runner really shines.
It’s almost like an extended Indiana Jones sequence as Thomas leaps across stone bridges and battles his way through biomechanical nightmares. And while it’s not exactly the most original of films, there’s no denying that it’s packed full of gripping action. And the storyline isn’t half bad, either.
Obviously, the temptation here is to compare The Maze Runner to its main competitor – The Hunger Games. It certainly has that post-apocalyptic survival feel, but somehow The Maze Runner manages to stand on its own two feet. The inspiration is clear, but that doesn’t mean its not a worthy film in its own right.
And for those of you who are sick of the usual Young Adult romance sub plots, you’re in for a treat… as The Maze Runner remains romance free. At least, for now. But with a sequel in the works (and potential for a third movie) that could eventually change.
But for now, The Maze Runner manages to pull together an impressive debut for its young cast and new director. And with all the tension, action and conspiracy it can find, it’s likely to become another hit young Adult franchise.
It might not be hugely original, but it’s a great adventure nonetheless.