Director: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper
Written by: Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, T.S. Nowlin and (based on the novel) James Dashner.
Running Time: 113 mins
Release date: 10th October 2014
There has already been a host of Young Adult books series that have been transferred to film. The Twilight series and The Hunger Games have been the most successful so far and yet they still come. Now we have The Maze Runner, an action-adventure based on the first in a four book series by James Dashner and while it might not have a flashy all-star cast, it’s a most entertaining and exciting affair. If I am being completely honest, it’s a far better film than The Hunger Games. Controversial, I know.
Thomas finds himself in a lift heading upwards. He has no idea how he got there or where he is going. Once he reaches the top, he soon discovers an area of woodlands and greenery inhabited by young men, surrounded by walls with one opening. That opening leads to a mysterious maze, which, every night, closes and changes and is the home of the Grievers, giant spider-like creatures with a deadly venom. Thomas, although told about the rules that the men have been following for the two years they have been in The Glades, refuses to follow them and is determined to find a way out by entering the maze, bringing danger to the whole camp.
Going into this film with as little information as possible helps to enjoy the fun because the film’s huge strength is the lack of exposition it delivers. We, like Thomas, are thrown into the dystopian society without having a clue as to how they all got there, who they really are and what is the secret of the maze, so you instantly feel part of the adventure.
With its cross between The Lord Of The Flies and The Goonies, without the humour, newcomer director Wes Ball keeps the tension level high, never dropping the pace or allowing us time to work out exactly what is going on. He throws in a few clues and some visual treats, giving the film an air of 70’s sci-fi but for the most part, he never lets on what the whole thing is really about. So we follow the boys as they bicker among themselves, cause political upheaval as Thomas rocks the boat with his lack of respect to the rules. Then they are thrown a real head-scratcher when a girl arrives with a note, saying she is the last.
What also plays in the film’s favour is the lack of star names. No Jennifer Lawrences here but a host of familiar faces, mainly from British TV and film. Will Poulter, last seen stealing We’re The Millers, is good as Gally, the one who is suspicious of Thomas and is more muscles than brains. Dylan O’Brien, from TV’s Teen Wolf, is also solid as the lead, Thomas.
The film is a good, old-fashioned, ripping yarn with plenty of exciting set pieces and well-played out action scenes that do throw up some neat surprises. The film does fall down in the final section, where he has a long explanation about why they are there, something that it had avoided throughout and you do feel a little cheated that we needed to know at all. This is mainly there to set up film number two, yet feels completely unnecessary.
The Maze Runner is a nice surprise. A film that has plenty for everyone and even to the point that one of the young teenagers who came to the screening with me, saying it was the best film he had ever seen. I wouldn’t go that far but it certainly is a full-on piece of escapism that works well for its target audience. Even those outside that target (me) had a thoroughly great time. I am looking forward to the next chapter.