There’s an apocalyptic world, pretty teenagers, something sound familiar?
The Maze Runner (Wes Ball), visualised with a host of british talent, possibly just closed the lid on the coffin of the apocalyptic teen hero genre. Big statement I know, but for different reasons than one might think. The original novel by James Dashner, always had promise for translating excellently to the screen and also notably proceeded Divergent in its publication date. With a continual sacrificial offering of the same film, led by many different pretty teens normally cementing their child actor status, you’d be forgiven for thinking this film would sit gainly between being a Hunger Games (Gary Ross) tribute or an attempt to ride the wave of the first of the aforementioned Divergent Films (Neil Burger). However I believe that The Maze Runner completes this genre in a few key different ways. I’ll try and explain forthwith; here goes nothing.
Premise; we know nothing. We arrive in ‘The Glade’ with the lead Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), confused and scared. Perhaps four football pitches in size, surrounded by forty metre plus, six metre deep walls, ‘The Glade’ is home to a large number of varying ages of teen boys with little to no idea why they are there. Thomas appears in ‘The Glade’ like everyone else, transported by an open-roofed elevator shaft that rises from somewhere deep in the darkness of the earth, his memory wiped. Surrounded by the british contingent aforementioned, (Will Poulter as Gally, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt and Aml Ameen as Alby), Thomas is mocked and then taught as much as the boys currently know of the their predicament. As any possible filmgoer might gather from the title, Thomas’s and boy’s situation is pretty clear-cut, there’s a maze and they need to get out. Thriller plots at their best, occur when the knowledge of the characters is the same as the cinema-goer, created beautifully here.
For myself, it is nice to see a male led teen-apocalyptic-world cast, which differs itself from the heavyweights of recent years. The desolation of ‘The Glade therefore parallels with a lot of themes in The Lord of the Flies by (William Golding); boys forming a society alone against the world, trying to find their escape, creating visceral enemies in the process. Except this time there is a very real danger; The Grievers and The Maze. The boys are aware they have to escape the maze and therefore appoint dedicated maze runners. These runners map the maze in daylight hours with the intention to solve what they consider to be one giant riddle. The Grievers, genuinely terrifying creatures, half mechanical arachnid and half bulbous slug with teeth, patrol the Maze at night, being the ever-present threat prey on the runners. The walls of ‘The Glade’ only open in sunlit hours, providing safety at night from ‘The Grievers’, until something changes, the arrival of the first ever female and last ever ‘Glader’, again a british star, most famously of Skins (Channel 4) Kaya Scodelari as Theresa. Her arrival causing havoc with the social structure of the group, and the knowledge that Theresa knows Thomas.
The overarching theme of desolation and escape, directly caused by ‘Them’, the people who put the children in ‘The Maze’, possibly smothers a few other important themes that could have been worked on better. For instance the obvious connection between Theresa and Thomas that isn’t overly explored throughout. However there is definitely scope to enhance this in further films, so perhaps I shouldn’t worry, this isn’t Twilight (Various Directors). The acting was indeed solid, which is refreshing, with special mention to Will Poulter as Gally, who continues to impress in any role, comedy to drama, always intriguing and full of emotion; its hard not to with those ‘brows. Perhaps a film with a lack of sustained character-development would be my main criticism. The set, also worth mentioning was incredible, even more so considering the budget, just $30 million, considering the first Hunger Games and Divergent cost $78 million and $85 million respectively, a round of applause for the finance department.
The Maze Runner will remain an above average film in its genre that in my opinion completes the teen-apocalyptic sector. In main due to its highly concentrated male cast (different to the majority of other films in this category), its low-end budget sculpting a far rawer image and finally the genuinely interesting future plot-line, which without spoiling the film I could not begin to write here.
Well worth a student ticket.
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelari
Running Time: 113 minutes
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