Everyone wants to duplicate the success of the young adult phenomenon “The Hunger Games.” And who could blame them? That series of films, so far, is a standout film series surely made to stand the test of time. “The Maze Runner,” adapted from the book of the same name, tries its hardest to capture the same dystopian feel with a more male-centric story about boys and young men trapped within the confines of a gigantic maze. It’s sort of “Lord of the Flies” meets “TheHunger Games” with a bit of “Lost” thrown in for good measure. Is it as good as “The Hunger Games?” No, but why should it be? It feels miles ahead of all other teen centric garbage flooding the multiplexes. It’s thrilling, action-packed, features impressive performances from its young cast, and gives us an undeniably fascinating premise.
Thomas, (played by Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) who can’t even remember his own name at first, appears in the Glade, a grassy area that’s surrounded by gigantic walls. There are only other teen boys, wearing mostly tattered clothing. No one knows why they’re there, how they got there, or what exactly is going on, except that there are creatures beyond the walls that hang out in the maze that surround the relatively safe central Glade area. He meets some of the other teen boys, one of which is Alby (Aml Ameen) who appears to be the leader of the group. Gally (Will Poulter) also appears to be somewhat in charge but is way more antagonistic. Thomas also meets the most recent addition to the Glade, besides himself, Chuck (Blake Cooper). He also meets the mysterious Minho (Ki Hong Lee) who is a runner. The walls open up in the morning and the runners enter the maze to attempt to find a way out. Every kid seems to have a place within this small group but only certain people are responsible for finding a way out or finding out why they’ve been put there.
It’s a simply fascinating premise that grips the viewer instantly. There are many questions as the film progresses the film uses Thomas for us identify with. He knows as much as we do. O’Brien is certainly charming in his first major lead role and I can easily expect great things from him in the future. The film has an appropriately dark look and tone as many of these young adult adaptations involve depressing post-apocalyptic societies. This film is refreshingly void of any sort of love story. There’s just no time for love even when a girl named Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) is mysteriously sent to live with the boys. Director Wes Ball, making his feature film debut, injects a strong sense of mystery to the proceedings, as the script slowly reveals more and more information. He also unleashes some pretty intense moments which certainly help ramp up the suspense. The creatures, who the boys call Grievers, are appropriately scary and the visual effects are pretty well down for a modestly budgeted movie. I really liked the overall feel, tone, and look of the entire story-driven movie.
You really do get a sense that author James Dasher was heavily influence by the novels “Lord of the Flies” and “Ender’s Game.” I didn't enjoy the “Ender’s Game” film as I never felt invested in the story but here I was in it every step of the way. The ending may leave some people with more questions than answers but it sets up what is sure to be a truly fascinating series of films. For once, I can’t wait to finish reading the book and learn even more about this captivating world. GRADE: A-
Trailer for The Maze Runner on TrailerAddict.