Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Maze Runner

Year: 2014
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Blake Cooper, Patricia Clarkson

Plot: A young man named Thomas is sent to a mysterious maze, where other boys like him reside, and neither him or them remember anything other than their names. While most of them are content living like prisoners for their own safety, due to many of them getting killed attempting to escape through the maze, Thomas is curious and yearns to find a way out.

Review: Like comic book adaptations, youth adult novels are getting made into films quite rapidly, with this film coming on the heels of Divergent and The Giver this year. I'm not so much a fan of these types of stories, but decided to give The Maze Runner a shot.

The story begins with Thomas, who awakes in an elevator sending him upwards into an area called The Glade, where a group of boys await. They've been there for as long as three years, and like him, they can't remember anything other than their own names. They are divided by classes, depending on what they're good for, and Thomas quickly qualifies to becoming a runner, whose job is to run into the maze and map it out. As time passes, it becomes clear that Thomas is different from them, and the ante is upped when the elevator sends a girl to them.

Director Wes Ball should be commended for allowing sufficient screen time for his actors, including those of the minority race, even though they don't always get better character development. Ball, more often than not, keeps the pace steady, not too fast or slow, allowing the boys to wrestle with the mysteries of the maze, and each other as well, as the audience tries to piece the puzzle with them. It does take a while before we get to see some action sequences, the best of which is in the final third of the film.

Dylan O'Brien, whom I saw last in The Internship, is rather solid as Thomas, the odd one out among them, trying to fit in and yet breaking their rules at the same time. Kaya Scodelario gets too little screen time as Teresa, the first and only girl sent to the maze, but manages to more or less hold her own. Game Of Thrones' Thomas Brodie-Sangster gets more attention than her as Newt, Thomas' ally, with Will Poulter providing a nice contrast as the antagonistic Gally. Aml Ameen and Ki Hong Lee also do well in their roles, though I wished the latter got more development to his character.

The film however suffers from moments of weak dialogue, for instance they keep saying "We call it The (insert name)", or ask rather cliched or obvious questions like "What if they sent us here for a reason?" or "What's that sound?". And like most YA stories, The Maze Runner has its own veteran actor villain, this time it's Patricia Clarkson doing what Donald Sutherland, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep and Diane Kruger have already done. She does it well, but I just wish they did things differently in order to stand out.

But for what it's worth, The Maze Runner is solid entertainment with a good share of thrilling moments. A sequel is already in the works, so I am hoping this will become better than even The Hunger Games. The potential is certainly there. (7/10)

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