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The Maze Runner – Movie Review

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The Maze Runner – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

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As more young adult adaptations about dystopian societies are released, there’s more of a necessity to differentiate them from other films and have it stand out on its own. The Maze Runner has an interesting concept, but the final result falls squarely in the middle. There is simply nothing special about it and while cut from a similar plot as The Hunger Games, it lacks its compelling characters and social commentary. For every bright spot, there are scenes where it’s astounding they made it past the writing stage. The Maze Runner lands in that disappointing middle ground of just being forgettable.

The Maze Runner begins with a very rough patch, as the first twenty minutes are devoted solely to exposition. Characters explain the mechanics of their little society, the maze and the problems they face in large chunks of dialogue that try and get the audience sped up on what’s going on, so the film can hurry up and get to the action. It’s a clunky way to begin the film, when the “show, don’t tell” method would have sufficed. The main character is a dull protagonist, obviously meant for the audience to project themselves onto, but there’s nothing to latch onto. Dylan O’Brien, who looks like a younger Mark Wahlberg, barely displays any real emotion in the part and appears directed to look scared and shocked at whatever is facing him. The best of the young cast is Thomas Sangster, displaying a confident swagger as Newt. He brings an instant charm and likeability to the role, to the point of hoping he meets the film’s end, especially as the deaths pile up. Will Poulter is also successful as the cautious leader Gally, who is able to make the character more than just an angry antagonistic force. His reasons for not trusting this new arrival and getting annoyed at his actions are understandable and Poulter displays that well throughout the performance. The rest of the ensemble simply feel like left-overs from The Goonies, except not as fun or as charismatic. However, to its credit, it does feature a multicultural cast without relying on tokenism.

There are a couple of solid set-pieces when characters venture inside of the maze, especially one with a series of changing walls that provides the first exciting scene in the movie. However, The Maze Runner can occasionally get a little silly, especially when the monsters lurking within come into play. With a plethora of creative and imaginative designs the filmmakers could have chosen, going with a giant mechanical scorpion seems like an odd one. In addition to flashing back to Jon Peters’ cancelled Superman movie and Wild Wild West, the whole concept simply looks silly. The computer effects are very fake looking and as a result, they lack much weight.

The film does seem like it might go in an interesting direction, taking on the idea of what it means to toughen up the next generation. However, it’s a plot that does not hold up remarkably well under further reflection and scrutiny. The ending especially raises eyebrows. It seems like it might throw in a social commentary on man feeling superior over nature, but it doesn’t have the time to explore it. The most frustrating element is how the filmmakers are obviously prepping for a sequel as the story wraps up. Divergent also suffered from that problem of creating a non-ending to set up potential sequels. While that story will indeed be continued, it wasn’t guaranteed during the filmmaking process and the same holds true for The Maze Runner. Don’t run the risk of not giving your film a proper ending with questions hoping to be answered later. Even a guaranteed blockbuster like The Hunger Games had a proper finish that would have worked even if it shockingly became a one-off adaptation.

There was potential in The Maze Runner, but there is little on display to differentiate it from other films of its ilk. There are the same tropes, the same ludicrous plot points and the same hints at future instalments that may or may not happen that appear in young adult film adaptations about youths in dystopian futures. The best that can be said about The Maze Runner is it exposes more audiences to Thomas Sangster’s acting talents and maybe this will land him an even more plump role. There’s nothing offensive or terribly wrong about this film, but it simply doesn’t present a compelling enough story that makes the two hour runtime worth investing in.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

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