How many dystopian, young adult survival thrillers will movie-goers support? After “The Hunger Games” and “The Giver,” among others, that’s the question facing this screen adaptation of James Dashner’s post-apocalyptic adventure. Read on…
When Thomas (Dylan O’Brien from TV’s “Teen Wolf”) wakes up, he discovers he’s trapped in a caged elevator known as the Box. He has no memory of his past and does not know why he’s being deposited in an idyllic Glade with about 50 other teenage boys who have formed their own highly organized, structured society. The Glade is surrounded by a massive, concrete wall with only one opening. That huge door leads to a vast, multi-sectioned, ever-changing maze through which the boys are expected to run each day. Being trapped in the labyrinth is usually fatal, since menacing, bio-mechanical, spider-like creatures called Grievers roam at night; yet, a Griever’s sting can bring back memories from the past. Alby (Ami Ameen) is the runners’ leader, while Gally (Will Poulter) is the scowling, security-minded bully. Mincho (Ki Hong Lee) is a veteran runner, along with second-in-command Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and chubby Chuck (Blake Cooper). Then, suddenly, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), “the last ever,” is brought to their encampment, and Thomas discovers that they have a telepathic link. If the Ending is near, can they find their way out? And what’s the purpose of WCKD, the mysterious organization of Creators led by Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) that has trapped them in this bizarre, coming-of-age social experiment?
Evoking memories of the tribal savagery of “Lord of the Flies,” it’s adapted by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin and directed by Wes Ball, best known for his short 2012 film “Ruin,” exploring James Dashner’s high-concept themes, including the importance of friendship, ingenuity, bravery and persistence. Problem is: there’s no real resolution, only a set-up for the sequel, “The Scorch Trials,” which is already in pre-production.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Maze Runner” is a frantic yet utterly familiar, fantasy 5, filled with sci-fi twists and turns.