[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
The Maze Runner

Good, until the explanations fall flat

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

September 24, 2014 -- This another in the endless stream of young adult book adaptations that have landed in movie theaters since the Harry Potter series made all that money. This one is better than most, but it only works as long as the maze remains a mystery. At the end of the film, when the explanations arrive, the plot falls apart because it all turns to nonsense. The film is fine, however, right up until those nutty explanations arrive. Maybe the sequel (already announced) will be better.

To a certain extent, some of the other recent films of this ilk, the “Twilight” films, the “Hunger Games” films, and “Divergent” all share this same problem with “The Maze Runner,” that is, all these films have significant plot elements that haven't really been thought through very well, so they aren't believable. The problem is a combination of sloppy writing, sloppy thinking and sometimes shallow, two-dimensional characters. The “Harry Potter” series worked better, in part, because it was well-written to start with, and the author made sure the movies didn't screw up the plots.

One of the things “The Maze Runner” has going for it is good acting, and an intriguing plot, up until the end of the film, at least. A teenage boy, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien of “The Internship”) wakes up in a caged elevator which opens up in a large clearing surrounded by a gigantic maze. He remembers almost nothing of his former life. The doors of the maze open and close at regular intervals every day. At night, the maze reconfigures itself.

Thomas tries to fit into the tiny society that lives in the clearing. A small group of boys (no girls) have built huts, a primitive jail and other structures. They have developed rules, forbidding all but the “maze runners” from entering the maze. The maze runners try to map the structure and find a way out. Some of the boys seem to lack even the most basic curiosity about the nature of the maze and why they are in this unusual situation. Thomas is curious and keeps trying to find a way out.

An instant enmity develops between Thomas and a large, powerful boy, Gally (Will Poulter of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”). Gally is very conservative. He is afraid of any change to the status quo and the way things have been in the past three years he has lived in this place. He sees Thomas as dangerous because he is unusually curious and is determined to get out. Gally doesn't want to get out. He is content to keep things as they are.

The leader of this little society is Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster of “The Last Legion”) an intelligent boy who, unlike Gally, is willing to think outside the box. He is willing to take a chance to get out of the prison the boys find themselves in, if a way out can be found. When Thomas and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) manage to do what nobody else ever has, survive a night in the maze and rescue another boy from the monsters inside it, Newt begins to think that Thomas might be a game changer.

The society of boys that develops is a bit like “The Lord of the Flies,” but not quite as dark, except for Gally, who is definitely starting to turn into an uncivilized, superstitious savage. The ending of the film is left wide open for a sequel. It's one of those “it isn't the end, it's the beginning” kinds of endings. That is the film's weakest link. Its strengths are the performances and its compelling characters, primarily Thomas, Gally and Minho. The maze is impressive, while the society of these trapped boys is less so.

This film is better than most of this particular genre. Of the ones I've seen I think I still like “Divergent” best, along with the second “Hunger Games” film that made more sense than the first one did. This one is good enough that I'm interested in seeing the sequel. That's more than I can say for most of these kinds of films. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)