After the success of The Hunger Games and the Twilight series, it wasn’t going to be long before the imitators and pretenders emerged. Divergent was as close to Hunger Games as you could get but movies such as The Giver and Beautiful Creatures try to recreate that novel-inspired, young adult franchise. It was no surprise that I went into the viewing of Maze Runner with some scepticism. Having avoided most young adult movies, this one had intrigued me just enough to give it a go.
I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t the usual, kids versus adult fare that I had seen before. In fact, the complete lack of any adults helped the development and intrigue of the story flow much better. The complete lack of any actual answers also helped the movie, as the audience, alongside the main character, Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien, begin to discover the secrets of the Glade and The Maze at the same time.
The movie has a very well-worn concept, with a group of boys having to create a community to survive. It obviously draws comparisons with stories such as Lord of the Flies, but it is in the characters themselves that the movie really shines. O’Brien’s Thomas is actually pretty straight-laced, overtly heroic but there some more subtle characters. Aml Ameen offers some security as leader Alby, Thomas Brodie-Sangster is reliable as the confident Newt and William Poulter continues to shine as renegade Gally. The movie will become a treasure chest of future talent, with some of these actors definitely going on to bigger things.
The setting of the Glade offers an interesting opening to the story, showcasing the success of the community, it’s fears, doubts, strengths and weaknesses. The real story lays within The Maze and this is also where we get the best parts of the movie. The first time we are shown the Maze, overnight with Thomas, is thrilling, scary and action-packed – in no small part to the fantastic design of the principle monsters; The Grievers.
The design of the Grievers pushes the Young Adult, 12A rating. They are robotic spiders, with stingers, tails and no remorse. They add a well-used element of horror to the story and make the prospect of entering The Maze a scary one. Everytime the Maze is entered, the movie shifts up a gear and the film becomes an edge of your seat thrill-ride.
This isn’t to say that The Maze Runner is without its weaknesses. Thomas’ incessant questions and desire to force expedition of the story becomes tiresome for the first twenty minutes, and the ending of the story itself feels very forced and unnecessary. It is clearly pushing for a wider sequel and ongoing franchise, but how it gets to that point feels weak compared to what has gone before.
Overall, The Maze Runner is a good challenger to The Hunger Games’ young adult crown. It is mature, scary, action-packed but very character centered, with a good solid story at it’s core. It does have weaknesses in it’s story and tries too hard to force an inevitable sequel and ongoing franchise but it is a better attempt to capture the success of other series that have gone before it.
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)