Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Kaya Scodelario
Directed by: Wes Ball (debut)
Written by: Noah Oppenheim (debut) and Grant Pierce Myers (debut) and T.S. Nowlin (debut)
In a post-apocalyptic society, what would be the logistics of building a massive mechanical maze with robotic sentries simply to test the mettle of teenage boys? Shouldn’t the razed cities be rebuilt? Wouldn’t that knowledge and manpower be better spent on ANYTHING else, really? Hospitals, research laboratories, housing for the millions of refugees, a market for goods and services…the list goes on and on. But no, because “The Maze Runner” is based on yet another YA — that’s “young adult” — novel, the labyrinth is just another way for young people in this decimated world to prove their worth to the mysterious elders in charge of whatever society is left. See also: “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” and “The Giver,” to name a few.
“The Maze Runner” opens with a freight elevator clunking upward, filled with vague supplies and an amnesiac teenage boy (Dylan O’Brien). When the lift finally stops, the ceiling opens up to a walled-in garden area called the Glade with a group of even more teenage boys staring back at the new arrival. In time, the new guy remembers his name is Thomas, but nothing else. He’s introduced to the “Lord of the Flies”-ish society by their leader, Alby (Aml Ameen). The walls trapping the boys in the Glade are actually a massive maze. The doors open in the morning, allowing “runners” to explore the maze as much as they can, mapping it, looking for an escape route, before the doors close for the night. Danger lies in the ever-changing pathways and the vicious robo-spider guards known as Grievers who roam the maze killing anyone they come across. Thomas’ arrival signaled a shift, though, and the arrival of Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) a mere three days after Thomas seals the deal, marking the beginning of the end of life in the Glade. It’s time to find a way out of the maze…or die.
As a male in his mid-30s, I can’t pretend this movie is meant for me. I just don’t care what happens in this adventure. I can appreciate that, when it comes to YA novel adaptations, this is indeed a well-made movie with some nice special effects work and an interesting mystery to kick things off. However, when it all boils down to the final act, it becomes frustratingly clear that this journey was only the beginning, and the answers to the overarching questions lie in whatever sequels the box office take of this film warrant, which has become the calling card of this genre. Have fun in your maze, kids. Unless David Bowie and his massive codpiece lie at the end of it, I think I’m done.