"The Maze Runner" Finds a Successful Path

Having an interesting premise (whether it is original or adapted from another medium) is obviously an important thing for a television series or movie, but what is done with that interesting premise is more important. I think that’s why some movies and television shows fail – they work so hard to come up with a good idea and then they work less hard at what happens next.

I was instantly intrigued by the trailers for “The Maze Runner” last year, it quickly set up an interesting premise in which there are these young men trapped in the center of a maze and looking for a way out. They don’t know why this is happening, and only during the film does the first young woman arrive at the maze. Who has put these folks here? Why are they in the maze? Is there a way out?

Directed by Wes Ball and based on the novel by James Dashner, “The Maze Runner” is one of those movies which manages to have more than just an interesting premise – it carries it all the way through to the credits without disappointing. I won’t suggest that the entire story isn’t outlandish, but the movie 100% buys into it and when the truth comes out—amazingly—it works.

As much as I wanted to see the movie due to the premise, I was even more convinced that about halfway through it would become clear what was happening and that when the truth did out, it would be a ludicrous, unfulfilling, answer. It was a movie I wanted to see but which I was convinced would disappoint. Obviously, I won’t tell you what’s going on in the movie here, but I was pleasantly surprised when I accepted it and, what’s more, when I wanted to see what happens next.

We are going to get that chance as “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” is due out this September. Presumably if that does well, we’ll end up get “The Death Cure” after that and maybe they’ll even do the prequel, “The Kill Order.” Whether or not Dashner’s books manage to stay intriguing, it will be interesting to see if the movies can pull off the feat.

It will also be interesting to see what sort of character growth exists as the movies progress. I think that the actors, led by Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Ki Hong Lee, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, all offer good performances, but there isn’t much in the way of character growth.

In fact, that part of the movie is relatively weak. The organization of the boys in the Glade (their term for the center of the maze), is all relatively standard stuff and there is no doubt from the moment Thomas (O’Brien) appears that he is going to shake things up and quickly find himself in a lead role. Actually, I think the movie would have been a lot more interesting if he simply serves as an advisor inside the maze—or at the very least reluctant to take on the mantle of leadership—rather than quickly being thrust to the fore.

Or, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the movie is better because Thomas quickly becomes one of the leaders of the group. There is absolutely no debate within the film about whether that’s going to occur (not that all the boys like it), so you don’t have to wait and wonder and watch and see how it plays out. You can just accept it and move on to the next thing, and the only next thing is how are they going to figure this whole predicament out.

“Maze Runner” certainly spends time on Thomas’ rise to power, but it isn’t very dynamic, although it does give Will Poulter, whose Gally stands on the opposite side of things, something to do, and I like Poulter. I think he was funny in “We’re the Millers,” and seems to really throw himself into his characters.

As I said, I think the whole cast is fun to watch here, with each character serving a different role. The issue is the larger fact that the roles are all relatively standard things.

But, even there, what I keep coming back to is the fact that the movie gets past all that because the maze and the truth behind the maze remains captivating throughout. The way in which answers about that are meted out, only helps push viewers through the movie.

Now, I look forward to seeing “The Scorch Trials” and what’s next for our intrepid band. I have absolutely the same fears I had about “The Maze Runner” for the movie, but if they pulled it off once, why not again.

photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Categories: review

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4 replies

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