Twitter Plot Summary: A group of teens are imprisoned in the middle of a giant maze. Stuff happens, they have to get out. You know the drill.
Using the phrase “the next Hunger Games” to describe any new movie adaptation of a young adult novel is fast becoming a tiresome cliché, and The Maze Runner is the latest in a long line of YA adaptations bequeathed with this honour. The thing is, from a tonal perspective and it’s YA origins then they are of similar ilk, but that is where the similarities should end. The Maze Runner features a similar dystopia setting and covers themes of isolation from the established order, as all good stories aimed at the teen market do, but to link the two in any other way is lazy and almost not worth the effort.
In the world of The Maze Runner a group of teenage boys are isolated in The Glade, an open expanse of trees and fields set inside some massive walls. Every day a small group of Runners explore the maze and try and find a way out. They have been doing this for three years without success when Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) enters The Glade, having no memory of his previous life. He emerges from a pit that once a month brings a new “Greenbean” and supplies into the teen society. His arrival instantly causes tension amongst the long-term residents, and before long things soon start to come apart at the seams, more so when the first girl in the glade, Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) shows up earlier than the usual schedule and appears to have links and memories of Thomas from before their time in The Glade.
The differences between the movie and the source novel are appropriate and benefit the structure expected of film, although in some cases the changes aren’t always beneficial for fan expectations. The design of the Grievers are a more horrific prospect in the novel than the part animal, part machine spider things seen in the film. These, whilst sufficiently unpleasant, aren’t as gruesome as the slug-like creatures of the book. In what is perhaps a wise move, the movie also excises the telepathy angle that played a minor role in the first book.
This is a film that isn’t afraid to jump into darker territory – it was a 15 rated film before cuts were made to bring it down to a 12A. Strong performances from Will Poulter (he of the impressive eyebrows) as Gally and Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt go some way to making up for the lack of depth given to many of the characters involved. Whilst O’Brien is solid as Thomas, there isn’t much more to his character than as a catalyst for change. As for Theresa, there’s almost no point in her being there.
The finale may be a little heavy handed with its excessive exposition – almost everything is explained in unnecessary detail regarding the reason for the maze’s existence and why they are all there – but until then everything ticks along at a nice pace and the action is nicely balanced, if a little dark at times for a younger audience.