A young man wakes up in a maze with a group of teenage boys and no memory of how he got there.
Wes Ball, 2014
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up in an elevator, disoriented and missing his memory. When he reaches the top, he finds himself in the middle of The Glade, a patch of forested land surrounded by an enormous maze. All around him are laughing boys, who eventually reveal to him that they’ve all been in the same situation (though have developed no empathy for the person going through it, apparently) and that they’re all there, memory-less, with only the maze offering a hope of escape. After making friends (including British actor Thomas Brodie Sangster’s Brit Newt) and enemies (British actor Will Poulter’s American Gally), Thomas becomes a Runner and heads into the concrete walls of the maze, facing off against the spider-like monster Grievers. Plagued by vague dreams about his past, Thomas befriends his fellow runner Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and learns the secrets of the maze. But before they can escape, the mysterious and dubiously American Theresa (British actress Kaya Scodelario) appears and reveals that things are not all as they seem.
This film, adapted from a YA novel by James Dashner, is heavily influenced by Lord of the Flies. Taking a slightly less violent route, Maze Runner takes a superficial look at how boys interact when thrown into this kind of situation together. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, something much bigger is at play than just some boys and a maze, and the last act of the movie ramps up the tension in regards to those particular mysteries, but before that can happen time must be devoted to building up each character. You do grow to like these boys, played by a quality group of young actors, including the under-utilised Dylan O’Brien, whose talents far eclipse what he gets to do here. He’s effective in his more emotional moments, but spends a lot of time reacting to conveniently revealed plot points. Will Poulter shines as Gally, a complex antagonist whose concerns for the group’s safety once Thomas shows up are completely justified and whose urge to protect his friends and desire for safety clash with Thomas’s curiosity.
The eponymous maze seems underused, with only about four scenes taking place inside its massive, groaning, shifting concrete walls, and only one of those actually engaging with the appeal of a maze. The nighttime maze scene is tense and scary, and more of that would have really kept up the tension of the action side of this movie. The maze is visually impressive, too, though the Grievers aren’t particularly original. There are only two women in the movie, though given the fact that it’s purposefully about the interactions between a group of boys, the concern there is less that there are few women in this particular movie and more that there are so few movies that are about groups of women in the same way. Overall, while the characterisations and a few snappy action scenes with lush visuals make this one of the stronger YA outings, its potential wasn’t fully realised – or perhaps it was, and the potential just wasn’t that exciting to begin with.
The Maze Runner on IMDb