In Review: The Maze Runner

by Daniel Goodwin on 10/10/2014

maze runner

Dystopian teens in peril continue to transfer their literary success to the big screen with this hyperbolic adaptation of the best-selling novel by James Dashner. Following the tepid Divergent (2013), director Wes Ball’s The Maze Runner is an adolescent sci-fi of a similar mould. Despite being loaded with action, B-movie staples and an intriguing central concept the film is unfortunately mired by flat characters and trite yet consistent drama.

Teenager Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) awakens discombobulated and without memory in a dell at the centre of a giant mechanical labyrinth where a community of lads, led by alpha Gally (Will Poulter), live off the land and monthly supplies while in constant fear of invisible monsters that lurk beyond the walls. Every day assigned runners set off to map the maze and search for an exit while Thomas creates rifts in the community by challenging their ways and inadvertently invites danger into the settlement.

Regardless of benefiting from a steady flow of set-pieces and terse drama, The Maze Runner is encumbered by dreary characters and dialogue. The set up is essentially Lord Of The Flies meets Cube (1997) by way of The Hunger Games (2012) and Battle Royale (2000). It is fraught with clichés but B-movie attributes in the form of scary alien beast things instil surprising tension and make for blithe yet hollow entertainment. The arrival of a young female character Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) introduces a welcome ruckus to the community but still the story craves depth and greater drama.

After establishing characters and developing conflicts, the story evolves into a stream of chase, fight and battle sequences which inject bravado yet distract the viewer from possible plot complexities that should have been explored. The dystopian teen subgenre has been interpreted as a metaphor for adolescent fears of the future which would have added a welcome subtext if addressed at a subtle level. Instead we have generic, yet well-executed action and tight, by-the-numbers plotting which is entertaining but far from thought provoking.

As it stands The Maze Runner is fun, product escapism boasting fine performances of depthless stereotypes. Pigeonhole packaging hinders the whole but its action and set-pieces are neatly woven into the narrative instead of feeling strategically crow-barred, and the creatures, wisely kept out of the marketing, are both a pleasant surprise and terrifying joy.

Daniel has awarded The Maze Runner three Torches of Truth


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