The Maze Runner (2014) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4) : It runs around many familiar things

themazerunner03 Running around many familiar things we have seen before, “The Maze Runner” is as much as you can expect from a film based on popular SF young adult novel. It surely has a teenager hero who will clash with the oppressive dystopian system where he is put into, and it certainly presents lots of danger in front of him and other adolescent characters who will support or inhibit him over the course of the story, and it will definitely be continued in another chapter of their futuristic coming-of-age story.

When our young(and good-looking) hero wakes up during the opening scene, he does not remember much about who he is, let alone how he happens to be put into a big freight elevator. Along with a number of supplies, he is being sent to somewhere, and the elevator soon arrives at its destination, which is a wide field surrounded by big giant walls. He is greeted by a group of adolescent boys, and they do not know why they were sent to this place either; they only know that a new boy is sent to them along with the basic supplies for them every month through that freight elevator, which they nicknamed “the Box”.

Not long after joining their small community, Thomas(Dylan O’Brien) manages to remember his own name like others did, and we see how the community has been maintained as he befriends a number of other boys. While Alby(Aml Ameen) is the thoughtful leader of the bunch, Gally(Will Poulter) and Newt(Thomas Brodie-Sangster) are two of the key members of the community, and it is shown that each boy in the community has a job to do for sustaining their community. We see several wooden constructions they built, and we see them working on the field for growing vegetables, and we also see their welcoming evening party for Thomas with their rudimentary booze. In short, this is like an alternative version of “Lord of the Flies” with better clothes and better behaviors.

themazerunner01 Life is not bad in “Glade”, but the boys are eager to get out of their closed world. While it looks like it is impossible to climb up these towering walls, there is the opening to the maze beyond the walls, so a number of selected boys, who are called “Runner”, enter the maze to search for any possible escape route. Runners, led by Minho(Ki Hong Lee), are the most able-bodied ones among the boys because they must run around the maze as much as possible and then get out of it quickly before day is over. The opening to the maze is always closed precisely according to its schedule, and nobody has ever survived the night in the maze because of the hideous monsters called “Grievers”. Furthermore, the inner structure of the maze is constantly changed, and that makes the Runners’ mission much harder.

Of course, Thomas becomes very curious about what is beyond the walls despite others’ warning, and he soon enters the maze even though he is not permitted to do that. The maze is the most fascinating element in the movie, and the director Wes Ball imbues this big, ominous labyrinth with lots of uneasiness and menace oozing out from its murky corners and walls. While there are several impressive shots which emphasize its gray, oppressive atmosphere, the movie also looks around the rusty details inside this vast structure for giving some gritty texture to its world, and the sound effects in the film are effectively utilized along with the uneasy moments of silence. Grievers, which look like a biometallic mix of spider and scorpion, are scary CGI creatures which can frighten some of young audiences a lot, and their terrifying presence is palpable even when we only hear their noises.

While Thomas and other boys try to explore more deeply into the maze after what is probably a possible breakthrough for them, a sudden change comes into their circumstance. The Box unexpectedly goes into another operation, and it sends them a girl in this time. Although she does not remember everything, Teresa(Kaya Scodelario) remembers Thomas, and Thomas becomes more determined to find the escape route, which may provide the answer to why he and others were sent to Glade.

themazerunner04 It will not be much of a spoiler to tell you that Thomas and some of the boys eventually stick together to go through the maze later in the movie, for I think you already have a pretty good idea about what is really happening at this point. Although the third part of the movie is packed with enough action and thrill to grip our attention, what is revealed and explained at the tame end of its climax part is too preposterous to accept, and you may wonder whether the maze is really an effective mean for an insidious plan involved with the character played by Patricia Clarkson.

The young actors in the film do their jobs as required, and we can only hope this may be a chance for better things to come for them. Dylan O’Brien is adequate as the lead actor, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Aml Ammen, Ki Hong Lee, and Blake Cooper(he played a likable chubby boy named Chuck) ably fill their major supporting roles. As the sole female character among the boys, Kaya Scodelario does not have many things to do compared to her co-actors, but her role will probably be expanded in the upcoming sequel.

The movie is based on James Dashner’s young adult novel with the same name, and I heard the book is the first chapter of the trilogy. Although how much successful “The Maze Runner” will be in the box office is not determined yet, the studio has already begun the production of its sequel, and so we will see the next story around 2015. I am not that enthusiastic about the movie because it does not have many things to distinguish itself from “The Hunger Games”(2012) and other similar films, but I observed its potential despite my disappointment, so I will keep my mind opened to that – for now.


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