A lot seemed ready to dismiss The Maze Runner as being a cash-in for a genre that has seen a lot of publicity in recent years. I don't think that we can discount those claims. We definitely can't discount that the film was made with the purpose of targeting the same key-audience. However, I believe every film deserves at least a chance before we toss it into oblivion.
The film is the first installment in The Maze Runner film series. The book series has two sequels, a prequel, and another prequel along the way, although it's unclear if all of them will be adapted. If it means anything, which it definitely does, they are already developing a sequel and with the solid-numbers that it is receiving overseas, the nice chunk it'll bring domestically, and the modest budget, we can safely assume that the franchise will likely be able to finish unlike some other smaller tier young-adult adaptations.
Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Will Poulter, there is definitely some capable talent that are applicable for making this film stand above and beyond some other adaptations like it. Then again, Percy Jackson didn't have bad actors either...
Let's dig in...
In what I find to be refreshing, the film offers little back-story on the protagonist from the beginning. There are no flashbacks to the family or little beginnings to show of a life that came before. Instead, the film begins with the main-protagonist with a sense of complete confusion. You are put right into the conflict and only as it progresses do you discover anything more than that. As it continues, you learn more about the situation.
There is a slew of boys trapped inside a containment, what keeps them contained is a large maze that seems to be ever-changing. This has been happening for over three-years and very little has been resolved about why. In the three years, the boys have developed a well-functioning method in organization in routine. Runners spend their time heading through the maze, trying to uncover its secrets. Meanwhile, the rest of them do other jobs that contribute to their survival. Every month or so, an elevator comes up with supplies and a new person to join them in a maze.
It is in this 'Box' that we meet the main-character for the film, a boy named Thomas that through his own curiosity helps them learn more about the maze entrapping them and the secrets that head beyond it.
I think that I'll start off by saying that the film's premise was very interesting for me. The last young-adult film to have my attention on concept alone was The Hunger Games, and those concepts weren't exactly unheard of. The Maze Runner seemed like it carried a lot of the same elements but the idea itself caught my eye in a way that something like Divergent did not. In a lot of ways that has to be chalked up to a strong marketing effort by Fox.
While watching the film though, I felt relief when I noticed that the ideas themselves didn't completely fall through when they were set in motion. I didn't relate to the characters very much, and by the end of it I don't really think I really connected to them on any level beyond empathizing with their own confusion. That is one of the biggest flaws that the film has about it. Otherwise though, it does something that a lot of films of its kind have been struggling with, it is widely entertaining and actually induces some suspense.
The film is nearly two-hours long but it doesn't very much drag or cause for me to lose interest. I actually found that I was invested in the themes that were happening. I was interested in what was happening, there were questions that I had from the beginning of the film, and more importantly, I think The Maze Runner was well-done enough to make me care about the answers.
While watching The Maze Runner, I wondered about why some moviegoers have so much of an issue with young-adult movie adaptations. I definitely don't think you can criticize one for having similar elements of the other or completely castrate everything about it on the basis that you think anything and everything is a rip-off because it has similar themes. Next you're going to tell me that Jason Voorhees was a rip-off of Michael Myers? ... He was a rip-off, .... but whatever.
One thing that I will say is something that I have noticed is that a lot of other young-adult adaptations have had some issues with keeping everything entertaining. I found that Divergent stumbled too far off its own reservations by the end and it made the rest of the experience less entertaining.
I didn't feel completely like that with this film. I think that it loses some of its energy towards the end, but I don't think it falls apart.
The acting is one of the striving credentials about this film. A lot of the characters are underdeveloped or don't really have the opportunity to express themselves with much depth, (there will be more movies for that) but the lead-protagonist and Gally are brought with commendable acting. (Gally is Will Poutler. Also known for his performance in We're the Millers, which is a much more comedic character.)
Gally is afraid and wants for everything to stay the same. And while the character might seem a little overbearing or overdone, it's a strong secondary antagonist to the maze and the role is done well.
Dylan O'Brian's efforts as Thomas during the moments of confusion and depictions of curiosity are enjoyable and make a solid-lead for a film more based around its concept.
In conclusion, The Maze Runner succeeds at offering one of the better young-adult adaptations in recent memory. While the box-office results might not come back in complete agreement, I think it's in the top-two young-adult franchises active now. (with Hunger Games)
I look forward to seeing the sequel. Thanks for reading...