release date: 19 September 2014
run time: 113 mins
considered: Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi
director: Wes Ball
starring: Dylan O’Brien, Ami Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Dexter Darden, Kaya Scodelario, Chris Sheffield, Joe Alder, Alexander Flores, Jacob Latimore, Randall D. Cunningham, Patricia Clarkson, Don McManus
movie summary: One day a really deadly virus will wipe out the majority of Earth’s human population. Somewhere in what used to be the United States there is a maze about the size of Texas. This maze has walls that are several hundred feet tall with a small forest called Glade in the middle of it. Inside that forest is a group of boys, Gladers, who were dropped in there to learn how to survive on their own. The Gladers get supplies every week and a new recruit every month. These recruits help build shelters and survival tools while a select group of Gladers chart the pathways of the maze. These “runners” run into the maze every morning and try their best to map out of the hundreds of tunnels. These people are smart and fast because in the three years of Glade history, no one has ever survived a night out in the maze after the gates close.
The Gladers have lived by the same set of rules for years but that is all about to change when the new recruit, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), comes up through the box. He doesn’t remember his name or what his special skills are, the only thing that he’s interested in is the maze and how to get out. The Gladers have a hierarchy, Alby (Ami Ameen) is the leader of the group because he’s been there since the beginning. He decides the rules and helps divide up the boys into groups based on their skill set. Despite Thomas’ interest in maze he is not put in the group of runners. Each day when Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and his partners run into the maze Thomas spends the whole afternoon watching, planning, and waiting for his opportunity to get into the maze. Gally (Will Poulter) is one of the group’s leaders when Alby isn’t around and doesn’t like that Thomas has so much interest in the maze, let alone seems to know a lot more about it then he claims to remember. Gally and Thomas butt heads several times which forces Thomas to run into the maze one day to help save Alby and Minho after Alby gets injured. Gally knows that the three of them won’t survive the night so takes command the Gladers and prepares everyone for the worse when the gates open.
When dawn breaks the gates of the maze open and much to everyone’s surprise, Alby, Minho, and Thomas are still alive. Gally is a little ticked off because he thought he was finally going to be in charge. Given Alby’s current condition though, he stills gets his moment to shine and be a dictator. He decides that Thomas has endangered the whole settlement by his ridiculous antics of the day before and must be punished. That night while Alby is treated for his sting wounds, several maze gates open and the nasty creatures of the maze, Grievers, attack the Glade killing several of the boys. Thomas, Alby, Newt (Thomas Brodie Sangster), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), and many others survive but Gally is furious about the attack and blames Thomas. He sets his plan in motion to have Thomas banished into the maze forever.
The next morning during his sentencing, Thomas is tied up and forced through the opening of the maze gates. Just when he is about to be set free on the other side of the wall, many people in the group turn their attention towards Gally. They force him to release Thomas so he can lead a group of runners through the maze to find the way out. Gally and a handful stubborn others think the runners are crazy for thinking they will survive the maze. They refuse to accept the fact that the time has come for them to make a break for it, leaving Ben and Thomas to lead the group of escapees to their freedom or their death before the sun sets.
my thoughts: Much like my previous review of This Is Where I Leave You, I went into the Maze Runner with zero to no expectations. I wasn’t interested in the movie from the trailers, thinking it was going to be another lame young adult attempt to get kids into movie seats. What I got instead was an interesting movie with a predictable ending, slow story telling, great special effects, and finally some intriguing action sequences towards the end. Since viewing this film on Tuesday, people have asked me what I thought. I have tried to sum it up the best I can to say that it is extremely slow until the group decides to break out of the Glade and try their best to survive the maze.
Dylan O’Brien did a great job as the lead recruit Thomas. It wasn’t his fault that his memory was wiped clean and that he was thrown in a cage to be served up to the Glade. He struggles to adapt at first but things begin to click for him and he turns into the natural leader he was meant to be. Of course being that guy doesn’t come with any problems, as Will Poulter’s character Gally hates him from the very beginning. His smarts along with his never say die mentality will help him become the leader of escapees who wish to find out whats beyond the maze.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, every hero uprising needs to be kicked down a few notches by a bad guy. That role went to Poulter, who was always second in command and dreamed of being number one. He comes across as a good guy, who plays by the rules, but is ultimately a ruthless guy who is only lurking in the shadows for his moment to strike. He deserves what he gets when the Gladers turn their backs on him and he is left alone to ponder his mistakes. He can’t accept the fact everyone turned on him and refuses to go down without a fight. His character in this movie is the complete opposite of what I saw of him in We’re the Millers. He appeared larger than all the boys and acted more like an adult with a chip on his shoulder then a 17-year-old kid stuck in the middle of nowhere.
There are so many other characters in the Glade that have impactful roles in the story and it’s outcome but no one really stood out. The only one I recognized from the beginning was Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who was the little drummer kid in Love Actually who runs through the airport to kiss the singer Olivia good-bye. I had to look at his IMDb page to see what else he’s been in because I had no clue he was still acting. I also really hope that Kaya Scodelario has a larger role in the next two movies because she had a minor role that wasn’t really needed in this film or part of the story. Amazingly she isn’t the love interest of any one, which is something most of us would expect from another young adult themed movie.
my final thoughts: The Maze Runner surprised me and exceeded my low expectations. It won the box office title for the weekend because of its book following and special effects. If you can sit through the first hour of slow boring story telling, then you will be pleased when they finally make a break to freedom at the end. Don’t get upset with the ending, you should all know by now this is only part one of many more to come.
my star rating: 6 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 63% out 100%
rogerebert.com: 2.5 out 4