Well, this was a pleasant surprise.
Straight off the bat, I will admit that I knew next to nothing about The Maze Runner, except that it was a series of YA novels and that I only knew because I happened to work in the juvenile section of a book store when the books were first coming out. Other than that, I knew nothing: there was a maze and Dylan O’Brien is in the film.
Thus, the main reason why the best friends and I wanted to see this movie. We’re all Teen Wolf fans and hold a special soft spot for Stiles, played by Dylan O’Brien so we trekked off to see this movie.
And we were all surprised. I’m not going to get in the plot in great detail here, nor question the apparent preposterous premises because, I’m assuming, those were from the novel. I’m only reviewing the film, which was a jolting action flick that genuinely held my interest and kept me on the edge of my seat.
Proceed with caution. Minor spoilers.
Thomas, played excellently by Dylan O’Brien, wakes up in a freight elevator and appears in the Glade, an open field run by teenaged boys and surrounded by the mysterious, monolithic maze. Why are they there? Who built the maze? What’s beyond it? Those are the main questions that plague the curious Thomas and his curiosity is what sets the action of the film.
Overall, I was genuinely impressed by all the young actors. The Maze Runner could’ve simply become a modernized dystopian version of The Lord of the Flies but the content was carefully handled and prevented from becoming too hokey or clichéd. All of the main characters were played earnestly by the young cast and the idea that these huge group of teenaged boys could survive and live together in a tense, communistic microcosm didn’t seem so far-fetched. In fact, the rules of the Glade, which were explained to the newcomer Thomas, added to the audience’s suspension and fear of the intimating maze.
The special effects were solid and used just sparingly enough. The scenes that took place in the maze were lit in such a way that the sheer ridiculousness of this giant, moving maze filled with mysterious robot bug things didn’t seem so overt. Also, the tension of watching teenaged boys run for their lives as the maze closes in on them proved to be some of the scariest moments I’ve had in the movies in a long time. If you suffer at all from claustrophobia, just be aware that there are sequences that could potentially aggravate it.
Dylan did a great job and it’s clear that out of all his peers on Teen Wolf, he is definitely the best actor and has the greatest potential to become a major star. I have no idea if this film will do well enough to warrant sequels based on the books but I do think Dylan can easily carry them.
Other standouts include Aml Ameen as Alby, the strong and stoic leader of the Glade, Ki Hong Lee as Minho, the main runner of the maze, and Blake Cooper as the adorable, curly-haired Chuck (who was basically the Piggy of the group, if you remember freshman English). They all held their own and genuinely gave it their all with these roles. Aside from Gally, no one was really one-dimensional and the scenes where their lives were in danger were genuinely terrifying and suspenseful for me.
Unfortunately, the one main female character (besides the apparent villain), Teresa, played by Kaya Scodelario, didn’t really have much to do. She appeared mysteriously a few days after Thomas and throws the entire male-dominated balance out of whack. Her existence in the film was never totally fleshed out and though she wasn’t necessarily a weak character, she just didn’t have much to do.
The following may seem like a minor detail but one of my favorite things about this film was the fact that the teenagers were actually dirty. At one point, Tersea’s hair is a frizzy, untamed mess. All of the boys have dirt smudges, stained clothes, and dirt under their fingernails. I loved it. In other similar films, characters somehow make it through days in the wild with barely a hair out of place and a clean complexion. Finally, a film that was realistic in that department!
Overall, The Maze Runner was a thoroughly pleasant surprise. While it’s nothing too groundbreaking or even expertly done, it still holds your interest and compels you to keep watching. It’s a surprisingly well-acted movie and shouldn’t just be overlooked as another cash-in on the YA dystopian craze.
The ending may just raise more questions than answers for you if, like me, you haven’t read the books. I admit freely the conclusion doesn’t seem to make any sense logically at all but I still enjoyed the ride getting there.
If you’ve seen The Maze Runner, tell us what you think below!
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