MOVIE REVIEW: The Maze Runner (2014)
It’s not often my opinion of a film changes drastically from one day to the next. I’ll enjoy a film as soon as it’s over, but the next day, I’ll reflect and think, “Wait, this part doesn’t make sense. Why would this character behave this way? Is this really how they explained this plot point?” My enjoyment clashes with my analysis and starts a judgment war in my brain, likely to cause a migraine. So, what film this week has reignited the feud between the left and right sides of my brain? The Maze Runner.
Dylan O’Brien plays Thomas, a boy who wakes up lying on a storage elevator, unsure of his identity and what’s going on. The elevator takes him to a forest compound surrounded by massive walls where a group of teenage boys have started a small society, building shelters, growing their own food, establishing government, etc. Thomas is greeted by Alby (Aml Ameen), the leader, who explains that all the boys have been brought in the same fashion; no one understands the purpose for their being there.
The only exit from the compound leads to a maze, which a specialized group called the Runners has been trying to solve for three years. Everyday, the Runners explore and memorize the maze’s paths before the entrance closes at sundown, when horrific monsters called Grievers roam, murdering anyone who dares to wander about at night. Thomas’s curiosity leads him towards the exit, but he’s stopped by the muscle of the group, Gally (Will Poulter), who enforces the idea that the society only succeeds if everyone cooperates towards the group’s survival. As Thomas tries to fit in, he begins to have nightmares about his past which, coupled with the secrets of the maze, may lead to his uncovering the reason for it all.
The movie wears its influences on its sleeve (think Lord of the Flies mixed with Hunger Games and a splash of Divergent), but isn’t restricted by them. The foreboding atmosphere makes this scenario dark in a way that Hunger Games doesn’t. I feel like that the movie works best with shock, while this disorients, teases, slowly wears on the characters until they’re disturbed and exhausted. Whereas the Hunger Games series relies on emotion to carry its power, The Maze Runner paces its mystery slowly, letting the weight of each development build until the end of the film. I got both answers and drama here, which is a plus.
Now, just because the movie provides answers doesn’t mean the answers work. It didn’t take long for me to start tearing the movie apart, and it didn’t take much effort. While some complaints revolve around the ridiculousness of a solution (which can be said for MOST movies, not just action movies), others can be easily fixed. For example, the conflict between Thomas and Gally makes sense and is justifiable for both sides; one advocates exploring the maze more to get out faster while the other works to keep order and have society run smoothly. However, this fight takes more time than its development warrants. Poulter plays a strong antagonist, but the movie interjects him so unnecessarily that I was irritated by the fourth time he blamed Thomas for anything that went wrong. If the movie had less of these scenes, I’d be more forgiving, but as is, they end up as filler.
The movie balances between such highs and lows. For every good effect (the sound associated with a Runner taking out a capsule from the remains of a Griever is so deliciously disgusting. It could’ve fit in Dead Alive), there’s a seizure-inducing action sequence. For every heartwarming talk, there’s an exposition dump. So at the end of the day, which direction does The Maze Runner lean?
In my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons. The secondary cast is strong, the blend of CGI and practical effects is done well, and the pacing flows, keeping the story tight yet dense. As much as I can nitpick it to death, I can’t deny the fun I had watching this story unfold. As far as this battle’s concerned, the right side of my brain is the victor.
If you enjoyed Daniel’s review, you can find the rest of his work right here on Sci-Fi Bloggers. You should also follow him on Twitter @manwthtapln.
Possibly Related Posts: