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Review: The Maze Runner

Perhaps the biggest complaint that can be leveled against the Wes Ball-directed The Maze Runner, which is adapted from James Dashner’s book, is that the film begins in medias res.

As The Maze Runner possesses a language and rhythm all its own, this forces members of the audience to accept it, in effect become prisoners of the maze, or turn and run. Certain viewers must therefore adapt to the story of a young man, who later remembers that his name is Thomas (Dylan O’Brien).

As most of the exposition and character development is handled later, the choice is either to accept what is happening on the screen, or to tune it out. Readers of the book may be at an certain advantage, as greenies must accept that this film is at times jarring, the tone is fairly dark and the action is quite violent, even when considering the overall feel of recent YA adaptations.

When Thomas is first pulled up from a cage, he is given the lay of the land, (albeit superficially), by Aml Ameen’s Alby, the de facto leader of the group, and again from Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s Newt, the oddball. What Thomas discovers is that he resides in a forested area, the glade, and populated a small number of boys, which opens up to reveal the maze. Allusions to Lord of the Flies come naturally, especially when Thomas meets the younger cherubic Chuck, (Blake Cooper), a Piggy substitute, and encounters and is forced to fight antagonistic Gally, (the arch Will Poulter), who undergoes an awakening similar to that of Jack.

Gally taunts this newbie by calling him ‘greenbean’ and ‘shank’. We become Thomas, hyper-aware of a sense of otherness, required to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings and a new language to thrive in this society. If our collective instead chooses to be Doubting Thomases, the enterprise becomes uninhabitable. Indeed, O’Brien is the perfect choice to guide us into this world because he is a canvas upon which to project our uncertainties – his expression does not give anything away, and his slightly-buttoned shirt, (opposed to many of the other characters that dress strangely, primitively), and sense of displacement reveal that everything is possible in this a-maze-ing realm.

The maze regenerates every night, and in it, resides strange characters known as Grievers, mechanical sort-of spiderlike creatures (we may have expected minotaurs instead). There is order and structure even in this society. Minho (Ki Hong Lee) has appeared to map out the entire world, and enlists Thomas to help him track the maze within his new job, that of a runner. More running takes place in this film than perhaps even in Star Trek Into Darkness.

Though the appearance of the last one, a girl named Teresa, (Kaya Scodelario, who cannot keep her accent in check), slightly upsets the delicate balance of Boy World, by this point The Maze Runner will have sustained enough interest to captivate the viewer into wanting to see what lives beyond the Glade and to enter the maze, as discombobulating as it may seem.

A movie like The Maze Runner does not come along very often, as the startling lack of empathy presented in the film requires dedication and the innate desire to challenge and confront the unknown. Looking at the hand that The Maze Runner dealt us, instead of folding, we are going to go all in and attempt to go runner-runner.

[star v=4]