"Make no mistake, The Maze Runner is not your average tween friendly movie"
If there’s one thing that’s been proven, movie franchises based on teen novels have scored big bucks at the box office. Twilight led the charge when it came to teen novel/movie adaptations and when that ended, amidst a chorus of pre-pubescent upset, Hunger Games took its place. Even though Mockingjay Part 1 has yet to be released and Part 2 is still on it’s way, Hollywood is always on the look-out for the next big thing, and The Maze Runner might just be it.
Adapted for the big screen by Wes Ball, whose short animated film Ruin garnered him enough attention to land the coveted role of director, The Maze Runner tells the story of a group of boys imprisoned by a giant, mysterious and ever changing maze that surrounds them. Every month, a new boy arrives along with fresh supplies of food to keep them alive, but one thing remains the same; none of them know who they are or why they’ve been put here. The film opens with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), a new boy being delivered to the maze. Disorientated and with no memory of his past life, Thomas is gradually initiated into the group by Alby (Aml Ameen), the eldest of the boys. As Thomas adapts to his new life within the towering walls of the maze, things start going wrong, and is quickly blamed by Gally (Will Poulter) for the disruption to their peaceful existence. Despite hostility from the group, Thomas is convinced that whatever lies beyond the walls will hold the key to all their questions and sets about attempting to escape the deadly maze in search of the truth as well as his freedom.
Make no mistake, The Maze Runner is not your average tween friendly movie, as the story progresses there are genuine scares and shocks to be had and that’s even before we discover what stalks the maze. Part of the intrigue of The Maze Runner is the element of the unknown, why were they put here and by who are questions that underpin the duration of the film. The threat of these anonymous captors serves to drive a wedge between the community of boys and their pre-established pecking order, leading to uprising and mutiny. Throw a girl into the mix, who arrives with a cryptic note claiming she is ‘the last one ever’ and already these are some pretty intense themes for a film aimed predominantly at the 12A demographic.
For a director whose previous credits include a short animation (http://vimeo.com/38591304) the visuals of The Maze Runner are astounding in scope, and you can definitely see based on his short why Ball was hired for job. The maze is an entity unto itself, constantly shifting its boundaries and opening up new segments meaning that for three years, despite trying to map out its perimeters, the runners have never come close to anything resembling an exit.
Casting wise, The Maze Runner pulls together a fantastic international group of young actors, from our very own Will Poulter as something of an antagonist in the group and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, portraying an almost sage like figure, a voice of reason amongst the chaos (why Poulter adopts the American accent and Sangster remains British isn’t totally obvious but it works) to the likes of Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee and the lead, Dylan O’Brien who pulls off the hero role with confidence and maturity. It’s refreshing to see a group of disparate, rag-tag looking boys as opposed to the perfectly coiffed, chiselled jawbones of Twilight and Hunger Games, which definitely lends The Maze Runner an air of something more realistic.
The Maze Runner is a wholly satisfying first entry into a franchise that could easily rival Hunger Games for popularity. A sequel is already in the works, and boasts the impressive additional casting of Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito and Game Of Throne’s Aidan Gillen. With a run time of 113 minutes, The Maze Runner never feels bloated, nor does it dip in energy. From the opening shot of Thomas arriving in the maze, the film ramps up the tension bit by bit and you too will be clawing to escape the maze.