We’ve seen a lot of young adult films based on popular books in the last couple of years. Some were phenomenal (Twilight, The Hunger Games), some so-so (Divergent, The Mortal Instruments), and others downright failures (Beautiful Creatures, The Host, Ender’s Game).
There are reasons why these adaptations persist and producers are willing to gamble. First, the books already have their own loyal following, which hopefully translates to ticket sales. Second, if the movie becomes successful then they can capitalize on the momentum and easily develop sequels. And lastly, with the books essentially serving as bibles, there’s definitely less input (and cost) in the creative process versus conceptualizing the stories from scratch.
As exemplified by the films listed above, a movie could have all the right ingredients but still be unsuccessful. Reception is unpredictable, so it’s important to build the right hype and momentum. And that is exactly what The Maze Runner did – following what worked for The Hunger Games. It showed previews as early as Q1 this year and banked on its unique concept to entice an audience – that of teens being sent and trapped in some walled oasis (the Glade) in the center of a dangerous maze filled with biomechanical creatures called Grievers.
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is the latest teen sent into the Glade, and through his eyes we discover the dystopian world the prisoners have built for themselves. Eventually, he becomes a runner – someone tasked to run through the Maze on a daily basis to find an escape route. With Thomas breaking the rules while unraveling more secrets, chaos ensues.
There is one word to describe this movie: intense! From fighting off someone infected by the Changing to escaping the dangers of the Maze, the movie is filled with exhilarating scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Good thing though that it has breathers in between that would help you pause, which is something lacking in let’s say the Bourne series.
However, the movie has some plot holes that are glossed over, and it ends with a lot of unanswered questions. There might be an expectation that you read the book to understand some details. So for someone not oriented with the book though (like me), it feels a bit lacking as a standalone movie and more like a setup for a sequel (or trilogy) than anything else. This is a type of mentality that plagues most of these young adult franchises, which reserve that much-needed catharsis for the very last book or film.
What brings everything together though is its cast of talented young actors who makes it easy for you to root for the characters. O’Brien reminds me of Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower) and mixes his character’s inner strength and outward naiveté perfectly well. Supporting O’Brien are Kaya Scodelario (Skins), Will Poulter (We’re The Millers), and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game Of Thrones). The who’s who of young Hollywood are represented here, and they bring a lot of energy into their roles.
Backed by an interesting premise, well-choreographed and action-packed scenes, and enough mystery to keep you curious, this movie is worthy of recommendation. It does not do anything groundbreaking to define its genre (e.g., Catching Fire), but it’s definitely one of the better young adult films out there.
Stray observations (SPOILER ALERT! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!)
- Glade, Gladers, Runner, Changing, Griever, Creators, Flare. These are terms we need to familiarize ourselves with for this franchise.
- Thomas is so lazy! For the first three days he didn’t do anything worthwhile in the Glade! He didn’t even finish his only task of getting fertilizer! Stop sulking and work, man!
- It seems there are a number of details that can be addressed by reading the book. But I think any film adaptation should not rely on that and work on helping the viewers figure out the answers within the movie itself.
- It’s left unclear what causes the Changing. The movie says you get it after being stung – stung by what? I’m assuming the Grievers as those who developed it were Ben (Chris Sheffield) and Alby (Aml Ameen), who both went out to the Maze at one point.
- The relationship between Thomas and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) is left very ambiguous. Are they lovers? Are they partners in crime? What is their backstory? Also, the depth of their involvement with WCKD is not established.
- Why were the gates/doors between the Glade and the Maze left open? Was it because of Thomas killing a Griever? Them finding out an escape plan? Or was it part of the Creator’s master plan, after bringing in both Thomas and Teresa in the Glade?
- How were these teens selected to take part in this experiment? Do they have special abilities? Have they been screened as immune to the Flare?
- Why go to the extent of building the Glade and the Maze to find a cure for the Flare? What is its purpose and significance?
- Is it just me who subliminally thought the note with Teresa that said “She’s the last one ever” meant the Creators want the teens to procreate? Good Lord!
- What was the real intention behind giving two injections to Teresa, which turned out to be cures for the Changing?
- I can’t (and will never) separate Jojen Reed and Kenny from the actors playing them. So I still think of them as Jojen and Kenny while watching the film! Why don’t you warg, Jojen? But wow, Will Poulter changed a lot!
- I’m not used seeing Patricia Clarkson as an evil woman! She’ll always be Emma Stone’s mom in Easy A to me!
- Lol at more disposable teen extras!
Director: Wes Ball
With: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson