On September 19, The Maze Runner, directed by Wes Ball, was released in theaters. Adapted from James Dashner’s novel of the same name, the movie is the first installment in The Maze Runner trilogy.
The basis for the movie is that a group of almost 40 memory-wiped teenagers are stuck in a square enclosure called the Glade. This Glade is enormous, including the boys’ living quarters, vegetable patches, community buildings, and even forests. Surrounding this area is a gigantic maze, which changes every day. The boys, calling themselves Gladers, have organized themselves into a simple civilization, creating different departments for tasks, such as cooking, growing, cleaning, and most interestingly, running. These runners have completely mapped out the whole puzzle by the start of the movie, without finding a way out. However, when the protagonist, Thomas, is sent to the Glade, everything changes.
I understand that in the past couple of years, many films based on dystopian societies, such as The Hunger Games, Elysium, and Divergent, have been released, but it’s not fair to lump this one with all the rest. If anything, I’d say this is more in the line with Lord of the Flies. It’s a group of kids trying to establish a society under stringent conditions; it looks into the psychological effects trying times have on kids, and what happens when the status quo is questioned. The Maze Runner isn’t a Hunger Games rehash or an opportunity to capitalize on the Hunger Games’s success. Yes, this movie takes place in a dystopian society like the others, but it focuses more on the Gladers’ fight against their environment. The sinister influence of WICIKID (pronounced “wicked”), the organization responsible for putting the group in the maze, is relegated to the background. Additionally, taking on a darker and more serious tone, the books and movie spark more curiosity and intrigue than The Hunger Games.
Moving on, I’d like to say that the best part of the film was the cinematography. I read the book over the summer, and Ball’s portrayal of the maze was breathtaking. The scene from maze section seven was brilliant, offering wide shots of Thomas and Minho weaving in between tall, rusted metal, shifting panels, while frantically making their escape. Additionally, the sweeping shots of the bright forests and plains of the Glade were perfectly juxtaposed against the mysterious, grim maze. The towering, unfeeling walls of the complex prison realistically depicted the helplessness of the group inside. What could have been portrayed better were the grievers, the mechanical, slugling abominations of the labyrinth. They just weren’t as scary as described in the books. Also, their entire bodies were meant to be sluggish with blades and many appendages, not slug-like with mechanical legs and a scorpion tail. So you can understand my disappointment when I say their sluglike faces reminded me of Silkie, the Teen Titan’s cute, cuddly silkworm mascot.
The performance from the main cast was great, but did deviate from the book, which was off-putting to me. Thomas
Brodie-Sangster’s role as Newt, the wise second in command, fit well, playing on experience as Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones. Additionally, Aml Ameen portrayed the group’s leader Alby well, hitting those empathetic and charismatic notes that his book counterpart embodied. Ki Hong Lee performed Keeper of the Runners Minho well in the beginning, exuding knowledge and experience of the maze. However, as the movie progressed, his role in the movie decreased, not leaving Lee much content to work with. Contrarily, in the book, Minho is an essential character, providing mentorship to Thomas and leadership to the very end. My last character-related issues are with Dylan O’Brien’s Thomas and Kaya Scodelario’s Theresa.
O’Brien was not at all what I expected from Thomas, the kid who would change it all. I think I imagined Thomas taller and bigger in my head, so when I saw a skinny, short O’Brien, it caught me off guard. But, I think that O’Brien wore the uncanny, unlikely hero hat well. Furthermore, Theresa, appearing in the middle of the movie, did not get much time for character development; therefore, she, like Lee, was limited in her performance. In the book, Theresa had a larger role, being able to telepathically speak with Thomas, and had a significant influence in his decision making. I think that if the movie was 15 minutes longer, the character development for some of the supporting main roles would have been more fleshed out.
Though the movie had its plot holes and shortcomings, it did well in relaying the size and nature of the Glade and Maze. Additionally, I believe my problems with the character portrayals were outweighed by the performance of the main cast as a whole. As a book reader, the movie fulfilled my visual expectations and action/thrill appetite.