Thomas has no memory other than his name but is brought to a closed society of young men whom all suffer the same amnesia. The society lives peacefully in The Glade, a grassy square surrounded by all sides by the huge walls of the Maze. The society has few rules, and no-one is allowed to enter the Maze except the Runners, looking for a way out. But Thomas is full of questions. Why are they here? Who put them here? Why can’t they remember anything? And why, after 3 years, has no-one found a way out? When one of the group gets trapped inside the maze at night, surrounded by deadly Grievers, Thomas must decide whether to live by the rules, or fight to escape.

The Maze Runner (2014) – Director: Wes Ball

The_Maze_Runner_poster

Rating: 12

Running Length: 113 mins

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelrio, Will Poulter

Genre: Science Fiction, Teens

REVIEW

Based on the Young Adult book of the same name (written by James Dashner) and set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world (and what isn’t?), ‘The Maze Runner’ blends an intriguing mix of ‘Lord Of The Flies’ and ‘The Hunger Games’. We are thrown straight into the action along with the amnesic Thomas (O’Brien). This technique immediately helps us get sucked into the plot. Why has Thomas been raised into ‘The Glade’ in a cage? Why can’t he remember anything? Why can’t ANY of the teenagers remember anything? What’s behind the door to the maze? ‘The Maze Runner’ introduces its concepts at a good pace to allow intrigue to develop naturally.

‘The Maze Runner’ intelligently establishes a solid base (Teen hierarchical society? Check. Magnanimous Leader? Check. A set of rules that will undoubtedly soon be broken? Oh, yes!). The characters are believable and, once established, populate a mysterious setting. A huge maze surrounds a grassy clearing called ‘The Glade’. We are as fascinated with Thomas as we are with the mysterious Maze. It moves around every day…and you’d better not get stuck in it at night! ‘The Maze Runner’ knows that its titular Maze is the device that will fascinate viewers, and so it strips out the other superfluous elements that often weigh down other Young Adult Novel adaptations. There is no convoluted love story. There is no artificially pumped up arguments. There is nothing but a society built around collective amnesia coping with their inexplicable imprisonment. Instead of hosing down the screen with adolescent hormones, when the supposedly perfect teen society begins to crumble, each character’s actions are refreshingly free of melodrama.

The measured direction is sold with compelling performances all round. O’Brien in particular excels, finding the right balance between vulnerability, and a believable curiosity to drive the plot forward.  ‘The Maze Runner’ is an intelligent and intriguing movie that takes the time to build its world and characters before ramping up the action. It answers the right amount of questions but raises enough to hook you in for the upcoming second part in the series: ‘The Scorch Trials’.

IS ‘THE MAZE RUNNER’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

The start of the film is very intense. Thomas comes to in a cage that is being pulled up for forces unknown. It is dark and he is disoriented and terrified. When he emerges up onto the surface there are many young men whooping and hollering in a threatening way. They laugh at him and he breaks free to flee in terror. The scene is protracted and lasts for around two to three minutes.

Thomas goes into a wooded area to do some digging. He is accosted by someone who seems very disoriented. They become violent and viciously attack Thomas. There is a desperate scrabble on the floor. A panicked Thomas managed to fight free and run away, desperately.

A character is taken over by a fever which is described as causing unpredictable violence. Punishment in this society is banishment into the Maze. As no-one has ever survived the night outside after the doors close themselves, this is a death sentence. The character is driven into the Maze by all the other characters holding long poles and surrounding them, so they get pushed into the Maze. The character pleads for the others to let him go, but they ignore his cries. In the last shot the character screams ‘No!’. The other characters are remorseful of their actions, rationalising it as necessary.

When the action moves to inside the maze there is a drawn out reveal of a creature called a ‘Griever’. These have been described previously as something to be feared although no-one has ever seen one and lived. The Griever is like a huge metallic spider crossed with a scorpion and it stalks Thomas. The suspense is very high, with only small parts of the Griever being revealed bit by bit. This leads to a very intense chase scene full of exciting action.

When the Maze doors stay open at night instead of closing like they always have done, the Grievers pour out and attack the inhabitants of The Glade. Everyone is completely unprepared for this unprecedented attack and panic breaks out. This is an intense action scene with many people fleeing for their lives and screaming in terror. The scene lasts around 5 – 10 minutes. At one point several characters are holed up in a wooden structure used for council meetings. The Grievers attack the building and stab inside with legs and stingers. Several incidental characters, and one major character and yanked out of the building and presumably killed.

When a troupe of characters enter the Maze they have to fight off several Grievers on a narrow bridge over a deep gap. Many characters are thrown off the bridge and we see them fall, although the camera does not follow them down and we don’t see the impact.

A video is played where in the background it becomes apparent that several characters are being shot, although we don’t see their deaths. One character holds a gun to their head and pulls the trigger but the shot cuts away before we see anything.

The film climaxes with a tense stand-off. A gun is fired and one major character is shot. Another is impaled with a spear. There is blood from these wounds and one character is mourned by another holding them, crying and refusing to leave. This scene lasts around a minute and there is no emotional resolution as the film ends shortly after.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

‘The Maze Runner’ rises above its interesting, if not original, premise to become a thoughtful and yet action packed exploration of a locked-in society trying to come to terms with abandonment and loss. The science fiction dystopian setting lends a fascinating backdrop to a tale brimming with engaging characters. The film has little in the way of light relief and instead revels in setting up a flawed but peaceful society, only to break it as time passes. With a lot of tension and a lot of scares, ‘The Maze Runner’ is not appropriate for young kids but should be suitable for older children from ages 10 and up.

  • Violence: 4/5 (some instances of blood and brief injury detail. Many character deaths)
  • Emotional Distress: 4/5 (Intense fear at times. The death of one character is felt deeply. All characters have rules to co-exist and when tough decisions are taken it weighs heavily on everyone)
  • Fear Factor: 4/5 (the Grievers are very large, loud and scary in both appearance and movement. The Maze itself is initially ominous and creepy)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5       
  • Bad Language: 2/5 (intermittent mild to moderate cursing. Several instances of a medium swear word throughout)
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (one character pleads for their life. One character has an emotional monologue about carving a toy to ‘remember’ his parents, although he gives it up as he cannot remember them anyway) 
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of abandonment, teenage confusion, imprisonment, closed society, scientific testing, breaking rules and curiosity.

Words by Michael Record

The Maze Runner series (books 1-4)


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