The Maze Runner (2014)


Dir: Wes Ball -  Cast: Dylan O'Brien (Thomas), Will Poulter (Gally), Kaya Scodelario (Teresa), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Newt), Patricia Clackson (Ava Paige), Ki Hong Lee (Minho), Aml Ameen (Alby), Blake Cooper (Chuck)

The umpteenth dystopian movie set in a post-apocalyptic world featuring young actors, but it’s a good one. The approach is darker and the atmosphere creepier than in most other juvenile book-to-movie adaptations in recent memory. With shades of Alien(s) and (the novel) Lord of the Flies this is as close to a horror movie as this new sub genre will ever get.

It’s the story about a young adult, Thomas, who arrives in a strange, railed-off world called the Glade, a grassy area surrounded by high walls. He doesn’t know who he is, nor where he comes from. It turns out that every month a boy of his age arrives in the Glade without having any specific recollections of the past. The Glade is surrounded by a gigantic maze which may (or may not) provide the only way out of the closed area. Every night two boys, called runners, are sent into the maze to find a way out, but their task seems hopeless: not only the maze is ‘protected’ by Griefers, horrible creatures, half beast, half machine, but the maze also changes its positions in daytime ...

The Maze Runner does not throw all its cards on the table immediately: we do not know what this strange world of the Glade & the Maze is supposed to be: is it a save place, a last resort in post-apocalyptic world, or are these young people used in a sort of Big Brother game? The Hunger Games, Divergent and Ender’s Game all opened with an exposition of the great apocalypse that had led to the actual situation. In The Maze Runner we only gradually learn what happened (and what’s going on), mainly through Thomas, who’s having memory flashes of experiments in which he was a doctor, not a victim ...

What also sets The Maze Runner apart, is the atmosphere of togetherness and solidarity in this secluded corner of the universe: these young people have created an almost perfect home for themselves, a world of tree huts, gardens, camp-fires, a safe place in the wilderness. This warm place is threatened by the arrival of two newcomers, first Thomas, a daredevil who ignores all rules and agreements, and then Teresa, the first girl to enter the Glade ... Thomas and Teresa quickly develop a string bond and their independent thoughts and behaviour provoke panic-reaction among those protecting the status quo, notably Gally, their chunky enforcer.

First time director Wes Ball has a history in visual effects and graphic design but doesn’t turn his movie into a maniacal special effects show; the Griefers are well-designed scary monsters, maybe a bit too fast for their own good (how could anybody ever run away from them?), but they’re not over-used. Both the Glade and the Maze are magnificent graphic realizations and there’s some great young acting talent at work here. The weakest part of the movie - almost ruining the experience - is a rather sudden, needlessly confusing finale that is in fact almost as confusing for us viewers as for the youngsters who have just found their way out of the maze. It also makes you wonder if the second part will be as fascinating as the first. According to the title - The Scorch Trails - the sequel will be set in a radically different surroundings. Is there a life outside the Maze? We’ll see.

Not just the umpteenth post-apocalyptic movie with young actors. Good acting and an interesting story-line turn this into one of the best of its kind so far, even if the finale is a bit of a letdown.


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