Another season, another young adult novel turned into a movie with hopes of striking gold. If you don’t know my stance on this genre, you need only read the first paragraph of my Divergent review. Go ahead… click on it…. done? Good… Luckily, Maze Runner isn’t too much like any novel turned film you’ve seen before.
Maze Runner tells the mysterious story of the Gladers, a group of boys imprisoned in the center of a giant maze with seemingly no way out. After three years of being trapped, the boys have developed a peaceful civilization with leaders, jobs, and strict laws. The world of the Gladers gets turned upside down when newbie, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) arrives. Unlike the rest of the boys, Thomas is curious and dreams of becoming one of the maze runners charged with figuring out the maze, which just so happens to be crawling with giant, bio-mechanical scorpion creatures called Grievers.
Unlike with Divergent or Harry Potter, I am familiar with the Maze Runner books. I read, and thoroughly enjoyed the first book and couldn’t put it down. For any fan of the book, you must understand that like all movies based on books, there are several changes. Some are drastic. Some aren’t. Most don’t take too much away from the plot. There is one change, however, that I found annoying and that took away from the experience of the story and that could likely kill the intrigue for newcomers. Flashbacks and dreams are shown from Thomas’ perspective, showing glimpses of the world outside of the maze. This doesn’t really happen in the book and it does take away from the eerie tone and mysteriousness of it all. But unfamiliars will be happy to know that this doesn’t feel like a young adult novel. There isn’t a sappy love triangle to dominate the subplot. This film, like the novel, plays more like science fiction horror with a Survivor tone.
The films pacing may also be an issue for some. Shortening a novel into a two hour movie is no easy task, but Director Wes Ball does a decent job of getting important information across without putting you to sleep. Where the film shines is in its cast and visuals. All of the main Gladers are solid in their roles, especially Will Poulter (We’re The Millers) as Thomas’ rival, Gally. And the massive, shifting, twisting maze is even more riveting than it was in the pages of the novel.
What’s become clear, is that it is unfair to create perceptions and draw comparisons just because you see the term “Based on the bestselling novel” on the poster or in the trailer. Ignore anyone who tells you this movie is like Hunger Games. It’s not. But what is fair, is to expect any film adaption to have its own unique characters and story. Just because some teens get sucked into the same ole crap about post-apocalyptic children, magic and vampires doesn’t mean moviegoers have to. In that sense, Maze Runner is more than fresh enough to stand on its own. And it’s over-arching theme of being complacent with mediocrity or fighting for more, comes across well.
FINAL GRADE: An only slightly biased B+