The Maze Runner (2014)

Thanks to Punch Drunk Critics, I was able to see an advance screening of The Maze Runner on Tuesday. I like Dylan O’Brien, and I know this is a[nother] popular YA dystopian novel trilogy, so I was really looking forward to seeing it and am really really glad I got to see it early.

The Maze Runner really delivers on action and I particularly liked taking a look at how these teenage boys have to figure out a way to coexist and keep each other alive in the society that they’ve been forced to create. It seems relatively utopian in that pre/post-technology way: everyone working together to make sure that the collective group has food, water, shelter, and most importantly, each other. That is, of course, unless you remember that every single boy living on The Glade was put there against their will with no explanation and that they are trapped there. So we have a very interesting dynamic and conflict between newcomer Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), who immediately wants to figure out how to leave and how he got to The Glade on his first day, and Gally (Will Poulter) who dislikes Thomas rocking the boat and works to maintain the status quo that has been keeping them alive.

Spoilers after the jump, but here are a few thoughts I had about the film while watching. (Please bear in mind that I have not read the novel.)

  • I really like Dylan O’Brien. I’ve liked him since I first (and, really, last) saw him in The Internship. (Which, itself, wasn’t a great movie.) He essentially has to carry the movie with his performance and he does a great job with that. (He also does a great job looking confused. Definite bonus for this role.)
  • While I’m glad that Ki Hong Lee got to have a prominent role in this film, his character kind of lacks depth in the film. But I like Ki Hong, so I’m glad he got this really huge break. Maybe Minho will get more fleshing out in future films?

    You may know him from his work with Wong Fu Productions or The Nine Lives of Chloe King
  • Also, I’m so glad to see Thomas Brodie-Sangster. I don’t watch him on Game of Thrones, so really the last time I saw him was Love Actually, and he was teeny tiny back then. I like his face, it’s so playful.
  • Maybe it’s because I just have a lot of anxiety about being chased and having to run away from things, but I thought that they did a really great job building tension with all of the running scenes. (“Maze Runner” = there are a LOT of running scenes)
  • I usually don’t notice things like this, but I thought the scoring really did a great job elevating anxiety during those tense running scenes. I was VERY STRESSED watching this movie and the music was just adding to that.
  • Actually, overall, really good use of lighting, camera angles, AND scoring did a great job of building tension.
  • Did I mention that I do like the cast? Good chemistry with them, although we really didn’t have a lot of time to explore their characters. We did get to hear from more supporting characters than I expected, which is nice.
  • Also speaking of the cast, good amount of diversity among a group of boys. I liked that. (Not sure if it’s written this way in the book or not.)
  • I remember flinching when the first girl (played by Kaya Scodelario) because I was really worried about what the introduction of a girl to an all-boys society would do. Luckily, it didn’t do anything other than elicit the comment: “Are all girls like this?!”
  • Also, I am really glad that Will Poulter got this role and is an actor because a) he clearly worked really hard to bulk up for this film and b) he looks a bit like Sid from Toy Story aka has a “bully face” and I’m just really happy for him because ordinarily that might be annoying to deal with in life but he is literally being paid a lot to make that bully face work.
    I just kept thinking throughout this movie that Sid looks like he could have been modeled off a today-version of Will Poulter.
    Poulter in the film
  • Not sure if this is because of the book or the film adaptation or what, but I left the theater kind of mad that none of my questions from the moment the movie started were answered. Like NONE OF THEM. If anything, I had more questions, and I kind of hate sequel-baiting. Movies should be able to stand alone.

In general, this was a really well-done movie. Not sure how true it is to the book and whatnot, but it’s definitely a very good action film. As far as comparing it with The Hunger Games and Divergent, which everyone knows is going to happen, I still favor The Hunger Games as a solid story and for the complexity and depth. I was never all that impressed with Divergent to begin with.

The Maze Runner comes out today, Friday, September 19th. Spoilers below this jump. (And by spoilers, I mostly mean my unanswered questions.)

Okay so.

First of all, we literally don’t have any real explanation as far as why these boys are in The Glade. Because they survived — or can survive?? — some virus? Why are there only boys in there? And how did Thomas and Theresa end up in there if they were working for WCKED? Just… SEQUEL-BAITING IS CHEAP OKAY?

Quite bothered by how Minho is like a quiet brooding Asian. (I have my problems with quiet, brooding Asians in movies.) That just seemed like such a lost opportunity as far as character development? Obviously he care enough about Alby to not have left him behind in the maze, even with all his peers shouting at him to do just that, and he’s ready to die for that decision? I guess we’ll maybe see some reasoning for that later in the movies?

Also lost is why Thomas seems to feel so strongly attached to Alby. I understand Thomas’s attachment to Chuck (more on Chuck later), and it’s not completely unfounded. But he runs into the maze to help Alby. On what, his first, second day on The Glade? Maybe not so much Thomas’s attachment is confusing me so much as everyone else’s comparative lack thereof made me wonder why these boys just don’t……. seem to love Alby as much as Thomas does?

Let me talk about Chuck now: I thought he served as good comic relief occasionally (his attempt at getting a “Tho-mas” chant was a bright spot in the movie for me) but I was otherwise not really that attached to him. I cried when he died but moreso because of how upset Thomas was and how visibly upset the entire group was about it.

Gally is more of an antihero than an antagonist, I think. I really liked that you can justify his actions, more or less, in this movie. Doing what they’ve been doing is what keeps them alive; changing that routine threatens everyone’s lives. Therefore, keep things the same. I like sympathetic villains, if you can call Gally a villain; it makes the story richer.

If Griever venom makes people remember things, what exactly are the limitations here? Were these boys cultivated in a lab??? Otherwise why wouldn’t they remember anything besides Thomas’s face? (Were they? I haven’t read the books, I have no clue.) They can’t remember anything else?

One of my biggest problems with Divergent is that it’s posed as a post-apocalyptic Chicago because of the fact that I don’t understand AT ALL how the rules of this world are supposed to make sense in any circumstance that is a direct result of the world we live in now. With The Maze Runner, again, I don’t understand why anything is happening whatsoever and it really bugs me about everything.

How long was Ava lying on the ground with fake blood and glass all over herself, eh?! That just…. that also bugs me but on a different level.

I don’t know, this first movie was exciting and fun but it left so many unanswered questions that I don’t even know if I want to see the other movies before reading the books. I usually like to watch the movies first so that a) I don’t feel disappointed by the movie in comparison to the book and b) so that the plot is still fresh and new to me when I see the movie. Not sure if I’ll do that with The Maze Runner, though.

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