The Maze Runner (2014) Review – Similar Quality to Divergent

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The Maze Runner has made its belated appearance at the UK box office.  It is directed by Wes Ball in his directorial debut.  He has plenty of experience in graphic design and special effects in documentaries and short films.  It is based on a series of books written by James Dashner and has been adapted for the big screen by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T. S. Nowlin, all of whom have little or no previous experience as writers.  Interestingly one of the producers, Marty Bowen, has worked on The Fault in Our Stars (2014) and Twilight (2008) so there was experience in terms of the oversight of the project.

The plot is that a young man wakes up disorientated in a lift that is rapidly ascending to who knows where.  The lift shaft is then flooded with light and he is met with a sea of mysterious faces.  He is in ‘The Glen’ at the centre of a giant maze with no memory of his past or his name.  Thomas (as we learn his identity) becomes intrigued by the mystery of the maze and his curiosity starts to overwhelm him when out of the blue, a young lady is brought up in the lift who appears to recognise him.

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One of the challenges in reviewing this film is the tidal wave of Young Adult (YA) movies that have hit cinemas in the last 5 – 7 years.  There are already sniffy headlines appearing in the UK press and to some extent The Maze Runner is bearing the brunt of the backlash.  As a film reviewer it is important to try and consider each film on its own merit.  There are very few truly original stories and much more important is how that story is brought to life.

That little piece of advice committed to the blog the first thing I am going to do is compare it to another YA property – The Hunger Games (2012).  This has nothing to do with the plot but it is relevant in terms of the overall look of the film.  Everything is grey, green or brown.  It  looks somewhat washed out and tired looking, just think back to District 12 and you’ll know what I mean.  It feature the same mix of standard and shaky cam.

Where is starts to differ is that it lacks the leading man or lady to carry the project to great heights.  It is more of a strong ensemble piece with decent performances from Dylan O’Brien as Thomas, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt and Will Poulter as Gally.  The special effects are believable and the action sequences are efficiently handled by Mr Ball.  The Maze Runner is set up to deliver a number of sequels and the second in the series has been green lit by 20th Century Fox.  I remain to be convinced by how the premise of the film will play out although if you see the film you will know that just what is true and untrue is unclear.

The Maze Runner is a solid effort and has done enough to tempt me back for when the sequel is released.  It requires greater character development and someone on screen for us to get behind if it wants to rise above the crowd.

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