By Sara Snoddy
The Maze Runner is not the second coming of The Hunger Games.
At first glance it’s another run-of-the-mill Young Adult book-to-film adaptation, but well-rounded performances from up-and-coming actors Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf), Will Poulter (We’re the Millers), Ameen Aml and Thomas Brodie-Sangster give this film grit and root it in reality better than you might expect.
Jumping onto the dystopian youth bandwagon a little late, the film struggles to set itself apart from others in the genre, cashing in on the fame of The Hunger Games. Although it does its best, The Maze Runner can’t completely shake the mold. However, the characters breathe life into an otherwise campy premise.
The first five minutes, a promising and believable opening shown through the eyes of Thomas (O’Brien), were perhaps the most memorable, setting the tone for the rest of the film. Giving the lead to O’Brien was the best choice director Wes Ball made in the film, which was at times saved by the young actor’s nuanced performance as the scared and vulnerable protagonist.
We follow Thomas as he’s thrust into the Glade, a place where one young man is dumped each month along with supplies and provisions for the rest of the gladers. Guided by leader Alby (Aml) and second-in-command Newt (Brodie-Sangster), Thomas learns that the Glade is walled off on all four sides by stone and steel, an ominous maze that closes at sundown and changes form each night. Scared away by Grievers, vicious creatures that are heard but never seen, the gladers are left to survive while a select few run through the maze each day to find a way out, returning by nightfall.
The late arrival of a girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), leaves the gladers in a state of fear as everything in their world seems to be changing. Unfortunately, narrative issues and Scodelario’s stifling performance doesn’t add anything exciting to the film. Although some of the best scenes are between Thomas and another younger glader, Chuck (Blake Cooper), these rare emotional moments are too sparing.
On its face The Maze Runner is a tailored to a male audience and not for those seeking the flash of other similar films. Looking ahead, one should hope The Scorch Trials, the next film in the series, will flesh out the characters and the plot better than its predecessor.
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