The Maze Runner (****) stays on a true course

the-maze-runner-poster

The Maze Runner – 2014

Director Wes Ball
Starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Ki Hong Lee
Screenplay Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, T.S. Nowlin based on the book by James Dashner

Never having read The Maze Runner, word has it that the series is one of the better in the immense wave of dystopian stories that have consumed mass media in the last half-dozen years. The awful Hunger Games Series of books was enough to kill my wish to read more. This is a shame, because I read about a dozen of the Ender’s Game series. These books were laden with good ideas and increasingly poor dialogue. If this first movie is any indication, the rest of the Maze Runner series should be pretty good.

The story starts with Thomas (O’Brien) waking up on his way up through a shaft in the ground. This opens up into what looks to be a vast glade. There are many other kids there – all boys called Gladers – and in his state of amnesiac oblivion, all he can think to do is to run. This sits well with most, who think they will find be useful to the group, while another named Gally (Poulter) thinks he will ruin this thing they got going.

The arena has openings that lead to a maze that surrounds their entire environment. This maze is examined daily by runners, who plotted the entire course, even when it changes by night. The key is to get back before the walls close and leave them trapped with mysterious spider-like monsters called Grievers. Those stung by these monsters face certain doom at first. Having Thomas there, and eventually the first girl and last Glader, Teresa (Scodelario) help to change things.

The acting of the Gladers is remarkably spry and effective. Each seems somewhere between comfortable and hopeful, with only Poulter being anywhere close to typecast. The script is linear with a few muddy flashbacks. It does enough to keep one engaged in the story while not hammering one down with obvious plot points. If you want a neat resolution, you will be disappointed. This movie is made to lead into the sequel. There are enough revelations to entertain.

The Grievers are interesting. It’s like a cybernetic spider. They take pieces of one that they’ve killed and find some interesting ways to manipulate the maze with it. Who created them, and why, remains a mystery. It’s somewhat better this way.

If you are tired of dystopian films, this one won’t change your mind on the trend. If you’ve kept one foot in the water to test the temperature, this might make it comfortable enough for a dip.

(**** out of *****)

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