Film adaptations of popular young adult novels have become particularly popular in the past few years. Ever since the booming success of the final installments of the Harry Potter film series, Hollywood execs have realized that there is a goldmine to be reaped in this market. The problem with this mentality, like with most Hollywood cash grabs, is that the quality of these films is usually very lacking, and the adaptations don’t do any justice to the original material. Once in awhile, there’s an exceptional series such as The Hunger Games which raises the bar for the other installments in the genre, but these films are few and far between. This weekend, a new YA novel adaptation called The Maze Runner is hitting theaters, and it’s a surprisingly enjoyable film.
The Maze Runner is set in a deliberately ambiguous dystopian future. The film begins when a young man named Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien, is thrown into a Lord of the Flies-style tribe of other young boys who have to fend for themselves in a hostile environment. Thomas has no memory of his past except for small glimpses that come to him in his sleep. The boys live in a glade that is surrounded by a giant maze. None of the boys are allowed to enter the maze except for the maze runners, who have been mapping out the labyrinth for three years in hopes of finding a way to escape the glade. A number of disturbing facts about this environment are revealed to both Thomas and the audience over the course of the film as pieces of his memory return and the boys learn more about the maze and the creatures that dwell within.
One thing that I loved about The Maze Runner was the characters. Thomas is a very self-sufficient, determined individual who comes off as a very relatable character to the audience. Game of Thrones’ Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays Newt, another boy from the glade who befriends Thomas and helps him get adjusted to his new environment. I also loved Ki Hong Lee’s character Minho, the leader of the maze runners who Thomas befriends in the maze. One of the smaller characters, Chuck, played by the young Blake Cooper, seemed pretty uninteresting to me at first, but as the movie progressed, there were many parts of Chuck’s personality that made him a great asset to the film’s emotional punch. Will Poulter played the vicious Gally, and he did a great job making me hate him throughout the whole movie. The cast had great chemistry, and they made the characters the strongest part of the film.
The direction and feel of the film were quite impressive, as well. The setting and design of the maze made a great contrast to the setting of the glade. The creatures which the boys find within the maze, which they call “grievers”, are an interesting combination of mechanical parts and organic material, making the viewer curious about how they were created. This is the case with many of the visuals in The Maze Runner; what we see reveals the scope of the maze and the environment that the boys have been thrown into. The action scenes were great for the most part. Occasionally, the camerawork made it a bit confusing to understand what was going on during the action, but this wasn’t the case throughout most of the film. The slick look of the movie kept me glued to the screen, and it was nice to see a sci-fi film with such an interesting world.
The story of the film was functional for the most part, but there were many things that I realized didn’t make sense after I left the theater. There were several decisions made by characters in the film that didn’t quite make sense, and it was also hard to understand the motivations behind some of these decisions. There were also several instances where a new interesting facet to the plot was introduced and not touched upon until several scenes later, something that irritates me greatly in otherwise interesting films. I still enjoyed the story overall, but I do wish that more care was put into the editing and narrative. It seems as though the plot of the Maze Runner is a diamond in the rough that was pushed out before it was fully polished.
The other complaint that I have with the Maze Runner is the ending. Until the last ten minutes of the running time, I was really enjoying this film. It was a gripping ride, and I was very interested to see how these young kids resolved their situation. The ending undid so much of the solid foundation that was laid down earlier in the film. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the ending of The Maze Runner throws a lot of unbelievable information at the viewer in a very short amount of time, and it’s hard to take in these ridiculous plot points after the film that we have just viewed. It seemed like a bizarre way to end an otherwise excellent film, and I can’t believe that the same minds who wrote out the rest of this film green lit the ending.
Despite the ending, I still enjoyed The Maze Runner. It stands out from other YA novel adaptations such as Divergent and I Am Number Four, and proves that there is still a lot of good material in that genre. It never reaches the heights of the Hunger Games films or the last few Harry Potter entries, but it’s not a bad trip to the theater. I’d definitely recommend The Maze Runner for some entertainment this weekend; just don’t pay attention to A.I.-level ending.