Adaptations of YA novels are as popular as ever! All the dystopias, supernatural romances, and fantasy stories for the young and innocent that have been written in the past few years seem to be progressively coming to life. We won’t be able to tell you which YA story will get picked up next and we are mostly still waiting for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 to come out. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t share our opinions on The Maze Runner with you. What did the Buns think of the newcomer?
I’d never heard of James Dashner’s young-adult, post-apocalyptic science fiction trilogy until I saw a preview for The Maze Runner film. The trailer looked like Lord of the Flies meets Hunger Games meets MTV’s Video Music Awards. I had low expectations.
The movie began with sixteen-year-old Thomas arriving in The Glade, full of questions, like the audience. For no other reason than to drag out the reveal of information and increase a false sense of mystery, the other boys won’t tell him much. There are lots of rules to living peacefully in The Glade, like don’t talk about fight club, I mean, don’t go in the Maze. This is dumb. Especially without an explanation of why or an example of the apparent danger. There’s a lot of not telling and no showing us about the Maze, which gave me an uneasy, frustrated feeling until the action started. I think you could cut large chunks of this part of the movie and no one would notice. Fan edit! Thomas gets attacked in the forest (unrealistically enormous when you’re in it, compared to wide shots of The Glade, TARDIS style, it’s bigger on the inside) and the movie gets going.
Ok, then, even though no one has ever seen the Maze’s mysterious monsters, called Grievers by the boys, they know that the crazy kid who attacked Thomas was stung. The sting results in a disease kind of like in 28 Days Later. Being able to make that comparison makes this movie actually OK. Kids are in legit danger and can die. The peril is real. It’s dark. I liked that.
Thomas, the only kid with a sense of curiosity, enters the Maze. This is just stupid. Everyone would be insatiably curious about the Maze. But the movie kind of explains this stuff way at the end. These aren’t normal children. I hope this is better in the book, because the dialogue about Thomas being different is painful and awkward. As punishment for killing a Griever, whoever is in control sends the boys a warning and the worst present ever. A girl.
The girl, who doesn’t do much and whose name I can’t even remember (Come on! You had one job!) recognized Thomas and he gets blamed for ruining the peace of The Glade. Grievers show up and destroy everything, laying waste to the compound and killing a bunch of the kids. It’s a massacre. Forced antagonism ensues. The toughest boy, Gally, wants everyone to stay and rebuild The Glade. Thomas wants everyone to escape. These moments are why The Maze Runner can’t stand against The Hunger Games. The arguments seem aimed at a young audience with mash potatoes for brains. No subtlety.
Alby: “You’re not like the others. You’re curious. But if you want to stay here, I need to know that you’re going to follow the rules.”
Thomas: “We don’t belong here. Somebody built the maze. I think it’s time we find out what we’re really up against.”
A small group of survivors follow Thomas into the Maze where they break a ridiculous password to escape into the infrastructure of a facility. Finally! Finally we get to learn about what’s really going on. Inside, everyone is dead. No answers. More questions. Give me something! Somehow, Gally has followed Thomas, even though he was dead set against leaving The Glade. In a moment that should have made me weep (Rue style in The Hunger Games, such ugly tears), Gally shoots Chuck. I was completely distracted by Gally’s sudden appearance to care about a boy dying in Thomas’ arms.
The group gets rescued, but the movie teased with the premise for the sequel before the credits rolled. In the bathroom, a crowd of teenage girls were debating which boy was hottest. They loved Minho. I wanted to sit them down and explain that when they grow up to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and rocket scientists, they’ll be more discerning about film. But they had a great time at The Maze Runner, so hey, more power to them. I’m compelled to find the book and read it, so I have to give the movie props for being intriguing at least.
This movie is not for kids. I’m pretty sure this movie was aimed at teens/young adults, but I – as I’m sure tons of other people did – got this confused as some sort of kid-friendly-ish, Ender’s Game-esque film. But seriously, folks, if you bring your kids to see this movie, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien aka that ADHD kid from Teen Wolf) is sent up to the Glades, a grassy clearing surrounded on all fronts by enormous walls that extend into a concrete maze – a deathtrap occupied by cyborg monsters called Grievers. Trapped and scared, Thomas bands together with a community of boys to solve the mysteries of the maze and find a way back to the real world.
So it’s kind of like Lord of the Flies except set in the future.
You know what? I kind of liked it. It relied a little too heavily on jump scares and unnecessary gore, but the Maze Runner was actually surprisingly entertaining. Yes, it’s highly confusing and the rules are arbitrary and dubious, but if you’re able to suspend all notions of how normal boys in our world behave and how terrible some of the dialogue is, then you’re in for a thrill. The danger is there. It’s real and in your face.
Let’s talk about the cast. Dylan O’Brien was better than I thought he’d be. I had my concerns, mainly because of my prejudice against Teen Wolf, but he makes a decent action star. Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the only female Glader, was a fresh addition to the sausage fest cast. While I was dreading the inevitable “guy and girl fall in love through mutual suffering”, it didn’t happen, which was a breath of fresh air that we don’t get in a lot of YA movies these day. SHH NO SPOILERS. They fall in love, don’t they? They totally do. Or will it be some sort of Star Wars thing and they turn out to be siblings, but not after they’ve already sealed the deal ifyouknowwhatImean.
Gally (Will Poulter) will forever be that nerd that got his balls bitten by a tarantula in We’re the Millers. There’s no way around it. It was hard to take him seriously after that. Minho (Ki Hong Lee) was delightful. A++++ on that front. I can’t speak for everyone else, but as an Asian myself, I get super excited when I see an Asian in a big movie like this. Let alone a good-looking Asian that isn’t playing a nerd and/or has an awful stereotypical accent.
While the action is great and the mystery is tantalizing, the movie did a piss poor job of setting up the universe. The only ‘explanation’ we get is a minute-long video of Patricia Clarkson going “We did this horrible shit to you, but trust me it’s for the greater good.” According to this liarliarpantsonfire the world was scorched by the sun and a plague ravaged the remaining population. But then it’s like ‘how am I supposed to believe any of this when you clearly just lied to us you bitch’. The worst part about it is you end up with more questions than you do going in. Or is it the best part? I can’t decide.
For example, who the fuck made all of these rules that everybody follows? Who decides what when there’s clearly no leader that’s been elected? Why the hell are they spending so much money and time on a facility like this when they already have a cure for the plague and trained soldiers that are obviously better than these whiny little kids? How are these boys so civil and respectful when the first girl they’ve seen in years shows up?! SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Unless you read the books, in which case LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.
The thing about successful scifi stories is that they absolutely have to stay true to themselves. They don’t have to be believable but they absolutely must make sense in their own universe. Which The Maze Runner, unfortunately, fails to achieve.
The story of a young man Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) who finds himself in a compound surrounded by high concrete walls called the Glade, The Maze Runner is based on the 2009 novel by James Dashner set in the post-apocalyptic world, following the familiar beats set by Hunger Game and Divergent.
The on-going problem with The Maze Runner is how little sense it makes even in its own world – everything from the setting to the boys’ reaction to something or another to the basic human emotions is forced and unnatural. What stands out in the first place is how everyone seems to be okay with what’s going on. Yes, they have the runners that are supposed to find a way out of the maze, but in the meantime everyone else is just ‘chilling’. Yes, they don’t have any memories, remembering only their names. Yes, they only have each other. Still, we’re talking about a couple dozen young men living in a very compact environment. And there’s little to no conflict going on? No one throws temper tantrums? Everyone is happy to be a part of their cozy commune and grow tomatoes and stuff? Put two people together in a situation like that and there’ll be trouble. Two dozen? They absolutely have to fight non-stop.
Then, of course, there’s logic – why is everyone so okay with being stuck in the Glade? Admittedly, they can’t remember much, except their names and apparently all the basic skills, like using spoons and knives and stuff. Yes, it seems next to impossible to believe that a couple dozen people would just carry on like that without trying to do something that isn’t just running the maze in hopes of finding the way out (the maze keeps changing every night by the way, so let’s talk about futile). They kept repeating that it’s Thomas’ curiosity that makes him special but what does it mean, exactly? Is it really about the rest of them literally not caring? Why aren’t they asking questions? If I woke up in a cage in a weird place, my first thought would be – I’m kidnapped. I need to find a way to contact my family. My second thought would be – it’s got to be some kind of weird experiment. Yet none of the inhabitants of the Glade seem to consider either of those things. They do, however, seem to care a lot about growing crops. Oooookay?
Then the expected and inevitable happens – Thomas breaks the rules and goes into the maze eve nafter being told not to (again, who the hell sets the rules and why?). So what do we have as a result? After all the stink they made in the beginning about the runners being super special and chosen and appointed and blah blah blah, he becomes a runner – just like that! Don’t even get me started on ‘We can’t climb the walls even though we have enough wood to build a ladder right to the moon’ part.
There seems to be too much wasted potential and unexplored/mistreated storylines that could’ve played out better if addressed properly. Like the fact that for the most part nothing was at stakes for any of them! They had their food supplies coming once a month, they had their garden and homes and, much like Peter Pan’s lost boys, they didn’t really have to be bothered with much else. Running the maze was their choice, much like creating stupid rules and silly punishments for not following them. They might have as well just indulged in playing football all day long and the result would still be the same.
So, technically, the interesting part only started when Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) arrived with a note clutched in her hand – “She’s the last one ever”, implying that there’ll be no supplies coming their way in the foreseeable future. Now we’re talking stakes! Before that? Before that the conflict seemed forced and even childish. “You’re new and I don’t like you so I’ll treat you like crap” kind of thing, which is just too pre-school to take it seriously.
All in all, the film seemed to have modified/changed too many key elements of the book that made sense in the original story, making the adaptation if not entirely ridiculous then at lease close to it.
-Having Thomas being as clueless as the audience was a HUGE thing, in my opinion, because it helped us discover the secrets together with him instead of being annoyed with his knowledge about something we’re still unaware of.
-The darkness of the film was a nice touch for sure. I can’t quite figure out who target audience is though because said darkness makes The Maze Runner not particularly suitable for children but at the same time the rest of the story is too silly to be meant for teens and older audience members. It was interesting visually, however, what with the contrast of lush greenery of the glade, spider-ish bot inhabitants of the maze called ‘The Grievers’ and the desert surrounding the place we’ve caught a glimpse of at the end.
-Points for the diverse-ish cast and at least trying to make it not only about young white people.