Young adult novels have been more miss than hit over the past several years. Since the popularity of the Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games franchises, Hollywood studios have been snatching up every book series they can find, hoping for that next phenomenon. Whereas many of the recent adaptations have focused on finding the next Katniss Everdeen, The Maze Runner focuses its story around a group of young men banding together to find their way to freedom and along the way may have found it’s way into the conversation for best young adult book adaption.
Based on James Dashner’s 2009 book of the same name, The Maze Runner is the first in a series of novels that follows the story of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his young companions who are sentenced to solitude on a deserted plot of land called the Glade, surrounded by a maze made of solid rock 100 feet tall. Each member of the Glade arrives the same way, waking up on an elevator car nicknamed “The Box,” with no memory of who they are or why they’ve arrived at this place. Thomas is the last male to arrive in the Glade.
Thomas is greeted on his first day by the entirety of the Glade, but Alby (Aml Ameen), the leader of the Glade, shows him around and explains the rules to the new recruit. Thomas is curious of the monstrous walls surrounding them, Alby explains that the maze is forbidden and that Thomas is barred to ever enter. Thomas meets the rest of the “Gladers” including Gally (Will Poulter), a Glader who doesn’t take too kindly to Thomas upon arrival, Chuck (Blake Cooper), a newer arrival still getting used to his new surroundings, and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Alby’s second in command. Each member has a job within the community, one such job, a Maze Runner, interests Thomas. Maze Runners run the maze to find patterns and hope to find a way out. Over the course of the many years since the first Glader arrived, the maze has been searched but no such exit has been found. As Thomas becomes accustomed to his new surroundings, his curiosity for the maze grows exponentially everyday.
After a freak accident inside the maze, Thomas defies the rules and enters the maze to assist. Having to spend an entire night in the maze on their own, Thomas and maze runner Minho (Ki Hong Lee) defy the odds and survive the night and, in the process, may have found a clue to help them escape their confines forever. As Thomas begins to dissect the clue to find a way out, a new arrival is sent up “The Box,” a girl who seems to recognize Thomas immediately. Leary as to why the girl would recognize Thomas, tensions begin to rise within the group, and new leaders begin to rise. Can Thomas defy the odds and help lead the Gladers to freedom and find out who is responsible for putting them in this situation before time runs out?
Each actor in the film finds their footing early and achieve performances to be proud of. Dylan O’Brien clearly is a star in the making and it shows in this film. O’Brien is able to sell the reality of the situation and allows the audience to buy from the first scene. Will Poulter plays a quietly menacing protagonist to a tee. Poulter is taking a large leap from child actor to full fledged male star. The rest of the cast is perfectly assembled and each provides performances in key moments of the film like a veteran actor would. None of the actors show any signs of being overwhelmed by the scope of the film which is a credit to themselves and the director.
Rookie director Wes Ball doesn’t have much experience with actors as most of his work has been in animation and art direction, but that doesn’t seem to phase the first time director. Using his expertise, Ball relies on the intimidating nature of the maze and design of the inhabitants of the structure, the Grievers, to play off his young actors to achieve a highly enjoyable thrill ride.
Overall, The Maze Runner is a highly entertaining film that will entertain audiences 10 years and up.
3 out of 5
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