Here we are at the end of September and we have yet another Young Adult novel film adaptation in The Maze Runner. So far we have had Divergent, The Giver, and we still have Mockingjay Part 1 still on the way. Needless to say the YA film has become a repetitive and often unoriginal amalgam of everything that has preceded it. The Maze Runner is still a part of this derivative group, but it is still better than some thanks to its visuals and overall mysterious tone.
If you look at The Maze Runner you will find that it owes a lot of its dynamics and scenarios to other materials. It is like a weird cross between Lord of the Flies, Lost, The Hunger Games, and a touch of The Giver. We have the internal power struggle with all the rules and even a Piggy rip-off of Lord of the Flies; we have the mysterious, ever-changing and unexplainable location like in Lost; we have teenagers struggling to survive in a contained environment like in Hunger Games; and then we have it taking place after the “dark times or plague or other world-shattering event) and the one teenager who tries to change it all from The Giver.
Comprising our group of boys living in “The Glade” –the home of the boys in the direct middle of the maze – is a mixture of decent and solid acting as well as some wooden performances. When Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien, arrives in the Glade through the “box” (the elevator which sends up a new boy as well as supplies once a month) he immediately starts to cause changes and problems for those who have lived there for 3 years without incident. O’Brien’s performance is definitely not the glue that holds the movie together. Much like Brandon Thwaites in The Giver, he just isn’t interesting or exciting enough for us to develop any care for him. Most of the time he just runs to the beat of his own drum and fights against the norms of the Glade because he acts like he’s the first person to ever try to escape the maze. Luckily his hollow acting is supported by some better performances from more entertaining actors such as Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones, Love Actually), Aml Ameen (The Butler), Black Cooper, and Will Poulter. These actors help bolster the lacking main actor. The only significant female actress, other than a brief role from Patricia Clarkson, is Kaya Scodelario (Skins) who plays the only girl to appear in the Glade and one of the reasons why things really get stirred up. Yet as the only female in The Glade, she is vastly under utilized after her initial arrival.
The maze itself is what keeps it a least a bit original though, especially when you combine it with some excellent set-pieces and engrossing moments of exhilaration and fear as the kids find themselves trapped and entwined in an unexplainable situation. The cinematography is decently done; the Glade is shot beautifully, almost as if it were Eden in the middle of a metallic, stone hell. The maze is filled with “grievers,” which are robotic spiders with almost demonic fleshy heads. They are the only enemy to the kids, and they too are not utilized very well to create a terrifying monster.
In the end, The Maze Runner is essentially another knock-off of all of the other films that came before. It combines too much derived material without adding an exceptional amount of its own. Just like every other film in the genre, it blatantly sets up a sequel, and I fear that the sequels will be less original as this one. So, you may not want to run to the Maze Runner, but it is what it is, and you should still go for the great scenes in the maze itself.