Lost Boys in “Teenage” Bodies

This movie was actually better than I thought it was going to be. Not to say it’s the best film since Citizen Kane, but I hope The Maze Runner’s fizzled release and minimal public buzz don’t kill the sequels yet to come. After all, if Divergent can get a sequel surely this male-lead equivalent can too.

We are thrown into The Maze Runner the same way Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is: with no clue to our surroundings and a strong feeling that the worst is yet to come. Thomas wakes up in a glen surrounded by high metal walls with about twenty teenage boys staring at him. He is this month’s “Greenie” and latest addition to their prison-within-a-maze. Each prisoner does his part to keep their isolated community afloat without pissing off the invisible authority that put them there. The most dangerous job – other than tower-building without safety gear – is handled by the runners. These brave souls wake up each day at the crack of dawn to explore the ever-changing giant maze, attempting to map a way to the outer walls and freedom. They have to be back by nightfall, however, before the maze’s giant doors close shut and lock them inside the labyrinth with the bloodthirsty creatures called grievers. It’s run or be eaten, comply or be ostracized, and farm or starve in this Lord of the Flies/Hunger Games crossover.

The best thing about The Maze Runner is its tense plot. Things build on a constant, anxious uphill until all hell breaks loose and there is way more death than I was prepared for (even though we have a lovable-but-slow character in a movie about running from deadly creatures). But the constant onslaught of How’s, Why’s, and What If’s never stops, and with one tentative answer, ten more questions arise. Who put the boys there? Are the grievers hungry or programmed to be hungry? How do the runners map a maze that keeps moving? If labour is precious, why wasn’t Chuck given a job to do? Because memory loss is the axel in this wheel of a plot, question-and-discovery become the main drive of the film, building up a more complex and highly messed up apocalyptic story line every minute.

As for visual design, the whole picture is pretty but deadly. The grievers are a cross between a spider and a Ridley Scott alien that wandered into the hands of the Borg. The giant walls of their prison, meanwhile, look like they were built to last, casting a sufficiently ominous shadow complete with hanging cobwebs and sound-dampening corners. The runners who scamper about these corridors are almost more unbelievable than the maze itself, with Thomas and his partner avoiding one too many near-smushes between the giant, moving, metal walls. Thomas must be half man, half worm to squeeze out of that many tight spaces unscathed.

There is one girl in this movie, as the trailer will tell you, but her appearance in a prison full of hormone-raging boys who haven’t seen a girl in years doesn’t mix things up quite as you would expect. Her arrival brings more questions with just a couple of clues to figure it all out. Other than that, she’s like the spoon in a table setting for a steak dinner. She could have been replaced with a box and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

It’s nice to see a teen movie that’s aimed at a male audience but has just enough handsome gents to encourage the girls to see it too. However, it’s a bit strange how these boys are all so healthy and strong considering their vegetable-centred diet. Running a marathon a day would surely call for a bit more protein, vitamins, and carbs. Even so, The Maze Runner is an exciting twist on a bunch of stories you’ve seen before and a plot that was bound to show up sooner or later in this apocalypse-loving present our teens are so obsessed with. The Maze Runner is a solid 7/10 because I was constantly entertained and pleasantly surprised.

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