Summer is over and so are most of the big blockbuster films of the summer. Hoping to repeat the success of The Hunger Games and Divergent comes The Maze Runner, adapted from the novel by James Dashner. With an intriguing premise and positive early buzz, can The Maze Runner be the next franchise to watch out for?
Teenager Thomas (Dylan O’ Brien) wakes up in an abandoned place called The Glades, he has no memory of anything apart from his name. His only companions are a group of teenage boys who have been sent there years before Thomas arrived. Every day they try to find a way out of the Glades through the maze that surrounds them. But the maze changes everyday and if they don’t return before night they risk getting stuck with the creatures that hide within the maze. Can Thomas find a way out, discover who he is and why he has been put there?
Yes this may be another adaptation of another popular young adult book series but The Maze Runner doesn’t feel like a poor imitation of The Hunger Games or Divergent. It refreshing to have a male teenage lead for once, especially as O’Brien seems to be a young talent to watch out for. We are thrown straight into the action seeing Thomas waking up in his new surroundings and feel Thomas’ confusion and desire to know more about who placed them in the Glades. He makes for a sympathetic lead among a cast of strong supporting actors most of who are British (always glad to see Brits doing well). Former child actors Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Love Actually and Game of Thrones) and Will Poulter (Son of Rambow and We’re The Millers) are great as two of the Gladers Newt and Gally. Poulter in particular is good. Although Gally is technically the antagonist to Thomas, his actions are understandable considering the hostile environment and years of torment he’s had to experience. Aml Almeen is also memorable as Alby the leader of the Gladers.
As with all the best teen adaptations there is a nice dark tone to the film, with hints of Lord of The Flies with the whole young boys left alone idea (not that it goes as dark as that). It also has a good mix of adventure with creepy monsters hunting in the maze as well as the great concept of the Maze itself. Seeing the movie in Imax also made the depth of the maze seem more impressive and completely daunting. There is also a welcome bit of humour to lighten up the film so it does not go too dark.
It disappointing though that the main female, Kaya Scodelario’s Teresa, is underdeveloped and mainly seems there to push the plot forward. And although I liked how the ending teased the next installment some may feel it lacked a definitive ending. But for me this is a franchise that is entertaining and stands out from the other YA pack of the moment. While it’s not quite up to the standard of The Hunger Games, at least Katniss finally has some worthy competition.
Rating 4/5 – exciting and thrilling, I can’t wait for the sequel already!