Wednesday, September 24, 2014

[Review] The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner, based on a YA novel of the same (which I haven't read), joins the trend in getting the big screen treatment. The film is sort of a mixture of Holes, Lord of the Flies and Hunger Games, and it isn't difficult to understand the hype. Despite its sometimes muddling and repetitive story, the film serves as a decent adventure fantasy and survival thriller, but it doesn't do much more than that.

The film opens with Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) getting launched up an elevator and transported to a dystopian zone full of teenage dudes. He has no recollection of the outside world, aside from some cryptic memory flashes that serve some conspiracy mysteries. After making a couple of friends, most notably Alby (Aml Ameen) and Chuck (Thomas Sangster, Game of Thrones), Thomas learns the ropes of this hostile society. Turns out they've all been trapped inside the barriers for years, and the only way to escape is to successfully make it through an ever-changing maze. Thomas strives to be one of the designated "runners", and the story really heats up when he gathers a group and heads out into the treacherous maze in attempt to unravel its obstacles.

Even though the events are kept fairly interesting, and there is some cool production design, the inherent flaws prevent this film from rising to anything great. Bland lines of exposition are stuffed into nearly every conversation, yet at the same time certain odd things occur without any explanation at all, like, things are randomly dropped in just because it seems like it'd be entertaining, but it ends up feeling forced. This is part of the nature of the premise, but it also makes it difficult for the world in this story to fully establish itself. The characters, even the lead, are all notably depth-less, due to the fact that they're just kind of there. At one point, someone actually says "I can't miss my parents because I don't remember them." Any ounce of humor or emotion in The Maze Runner is elusive. I realize the story strives to be uber-serious, but a little more dimension could've saved its flat tone.

And in predictable form, The Maze Runner also suffers from the unsatisfying ending and inevitable setup for a sequel, which seems to be a key signature in a lot of these YA adaptations. Maybe some of the film's flaws will be reconciled in later installments, but it's tough to be compelled to make it all the way through.


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