The Maze Runner

Brilliant, well-acted and extraordinarily thrilling!


The Maze Runner

  • Brilliant, well-acted and extraordinarily thrilling!

The Maze Runner

  • Brilliant, well-acted and extraordinarily thrilling!


Rated

PG-13

Starring

Dylan O’Brien
Aml Ameen
Ki Hong Lee
Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Will Poulter

Written by

Noah Oppenheim
Grant Pierce Myers
T.S. Nowlin
James Dashner

Directed by

Wess Ball



coming up

What to Expect

What does one expect from a young-adult movie nowadays? It’s hard to say, really, because to be honest, there’s almost nothing.

One of the toughest things about the genre and the kind of audience it attracts is the very formula it keeps falling back upon. It’s either the vampires, or a futuristic world – both of which (probably) contain an important female protagonist trying to sort out the odds of her life, either romantically or through the issues of the dystopian world she inhabits. Of the lot, the only critically and commercially successful one has to be The Hunger Games as a franchise. Both as an adaptation and as a political voice on pressing issues of the human societal structure, The Hunger Games has managed to hold the audiences brilliantly till the end.

But is that really the end of the kind of young-adult films we’ve got? Of course, we’ve got our share of absolutely important coming-of-age dramedies like The Spectacular Now (directed painfully well by James Ponsoldt), The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower that people have got to see – but for bigger budgeted ideas, is that all we’ve got?

This exactly the point in time when The Maze Runner makes its unceremonious entry as yet another book adaptation that many sane-headed people would be wary about. It really doesn’t help on paper that it stars potential fangirl-magnet Dylan O’Brien (of Teen Wolf fame). There is a twist, however. The first look of the film actually looks ridiculously good. The dark, almost tense and claustrophobic universe the characters are a part of sets the potential audience up for more than just the usual fight-for-good-and-romance-on-the-side dish at the movies.

This shouldn’t surprise us, especially considering Wes Ball’s terrific animated dystopian-world action short Ruin gives us a fair idea of tension, pace and ambient space. Making his debut on the big screen, we’re made to see why the studios picked him in the first place – at least partly.

The doubts? They still stand though. Some of the most ridiculously good looking movie trailers can lead us to the most nightmarishly inane movie exercises ever.

What’s it About?

Doubt, however, is what drives Thomas forward rather than backward. Brought into a mysterious place in the middle of the woods called the Glade, shut off from the outside world through nothing but a gigantic, ever-changing maze, Thomas struggles to know who he is, how he came here and – ultimately – how to get out.

What’s the problem then? Nobody seems too pumped about trying to find a way out. Nobody remembers who they were – just their names – and nobody wants to be a part of the maze they’re ultimately trapped in – even though the maze is their only chance of getting out.

Nobody but Thomas, who begins looking for ways out. And as he does, each move of his unfolds a set of events that spins everybody’s idyllic, rule-governed lives in the Glade out of control.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

O'Brien: "Will people see me outside Teen Wolf, like ever?" Ball: "No, but that will not be an excuse to act like poop!" O'Brien: "Um, okay then."

O’Brien: “Will people see me outside Teen Wolf, like ever?”
Ball: “No, but that will not be an excuse to act like poop!”
O’Brien: “Um, okay then.”

One of the main thematic aspects of the kind of topics Wes Ball has chosen in all the movies he’s made (short, and now feature) is rebellion – passive or otherwise – amongst his other connective ideals of being the only (and lonely) different one amidst a claustrophobic conundrum of normalcy (a major example being his other drama short A Work in Progress). Now although the concept’s credit goes completely to the creator of the original source material James Dashner, one can see how Ball fits the bill to the T. The screenplay by television producer Noah Oppenheim (for whom this is his feature film debut) wastes no time in introduction or the how-it-happened (as a lot of films usually end up doing) and instead begins the movie right where it should. The audience is introduced to a character who’s trying to piece together his own past and the reason he’s placed at the very core of this maze. Nuggets of information are thrown at you – not more, not less, just the right amount – for you to process and uncover the clues one by one. The unhurried, consistently toned screenplay is given superior direction by Ball, who gets the best out of his performers, making them feel utterly believable and relatable in a world unlike the one we live in. The movie treads similar pathways of fatal curiosity, rebellion and the imminent uprising against the questionable rules of the societal structure. Quite unlike other young-adult action franchises however, the movie doesn’t for a single moment stray off the core concept and the story woven around it. There aren’t any unnecessary romantic subplots or manipulative emotional trappings. You’re made to feel that there will be a kindling of a romance of some sort, but that doesn’t happen.

The movie excels in tension that just does not let go. Every action set-piece – superbly designed, choreographed and directed – only throttles the tension levels way up in the film. The viewer is made to feel like they’re more a part of the action than a mere spectator, which helps. Add to that the presence of a whole set of characters you manage to form a bond with, and you’ve got a film that keeps you involved till the end of it all. Helping the action sequences is the intense fast-moving camerawork that supports Enrique Chediak’s (127 Hours) impressive cinematography through the movie’s runtime. Chediak makes regular use of angles, natural and dramatic lighting, and framing to enhance emotion through space, sight and atmosphere. The movie has a fairly consistent edit-range by Dan Zimmerman (Max Payne), which allow the emotion and action in the story to take over, rather than stylistically choppy editing gimmickry. The visual effects are effective, and the fact that the visual effects artists have worked hard shows in the design and modeling of the otherworldly creatures in the film. The movie boasts of crazy attention to detail in its production design – especially its art direction – which literally manages to sell the film’s parallel universe to the audience. John Paesano (television’s Dragons) spins out a score that only enhances the tension in the film. If there’s anything that shoots up the creepy realism and believability factor in the film, it’s the excellent sound design. The movie boasts of some fantastic audio work that allows the audience not just to witness, but also to hear and eventually feel, the some of the most unreal moments in it.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Thomas: "We're not falling in love." Teresa: "Cool shit." Thomas: "Yeah. We're hipsters yo."

Thomas: “We’re not falling in love.”
Teresa: “Cool shit.”
Thomas: “Yeah. We’re hipsters yo.”

I haven’t seen Teen Wolf, so I wouldn’t know Dylan O’Brien’s performative range in the series. All I do know is that O’Brien manages to impress the audience by a million miles here. His embodiment of the character’s curiosity, vulnerability and proactivity is nothing short of splendid. Thomas Sangster (Love Actually) comes in a close second with his portrayal of the gentle-but-cautious know all. Aml Ameen as the rulemaker is both charming and believable – he sells himself as the leader of the pack well enough. Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) as the aggressive-envious rule follower earns our instant dislike as an audience member. That in itself shows that he’s succeeded. Kaya Scodelario (television’s Skins) has a relatively short role, but as the character that sets the ball rolling, she’s fun to watch. We get a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her in the universe soon. Ki Hong Lee (television’s The Nine Lives of Chloe King) as one of the runners provides ample support to the film. Blake Cooper as the youngest Glader Chuck is impressive. The audience is able to connect – and sympathize with – the character. Patricia Clarkson has the shortest – and also the most impactful – appearance in the film. Watch the film to know why. Others are efficient.

Worth it?

The film may not be as original as the last completely fresh-off-the-box Chronicle; what with it being yet another book adaptation – this time from Dashner’s young-adult novel series. While the movie safely slots itself in the genre-type that The Hunger Games and The Divergent Series have become today as franchises, it also takes the risk of bringing to screen a fairly intimate, almost claustrophobic science fiction action thriller – and it seems the risk has paid off, and lots more. This is a film that succeeds not just in being to-the-point in terms of writing and brilliant in its direction of pace, but also bringing in a fairly talented bunch of actors that make its full-bodied characters come alive.

As a conclusive statement, if there’s any commercial film you need to catch this month, let it be The Maze Runner. Far from what you’d expect the kind of bracket you’ve put the movie in to do, the movie itself is an astonishingly fantastic, brilliantly paced and well-acted piece of work. In a world filled with some of the most atrocious book-to-movie adaptations one could have the tolerance level to watch – Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, and the infamous The Twilight Saga bearing testimony to the fact – this film comes as a huge surprise.

Definitely recommended.

Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us


Rated

PG-13

Starring

Dylan O’Brien
Aml Ameen
Ki Hong Lee
Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Will Poulter

Written by

Noah Oppenheim
Grant Pierce Myers
T.S. Nowlin
James Dashner

Directed by

Wess Ball



What to Expect

What does one expect from a young-adult movie nowadays? It’s hard to say, really, because to be honest, there’s almost nothing.

One of the toughest things about the genre and the kind of audience it attracts is the very formula it keeps falling back upon. It’s either the vampires, or a futuristic world – both of which (probably) contain an important female protagonist trying to sort out the odds of her life, either romantically or through the issues of the dystopian world she inhabits. Of the lot, the only critically and commercially successful one has to be The Hunger Games as a franchise. Both as an adaptation and as a political voice on pressing issues of the human societal structure, The Hunger Games has managed to hold the audiences brilliantly till the end.

But is that really the end of the kind of young-adult films we’ve got? Of course, we’ve got our share of absolutely important coming-of-age dramedies like The Spectacular Now (directed painfully well by James Ponsoldt), The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower that people have got to see – but for bigger budgeted ideas, is that all we’ve got?

This exactly the point in time when The Maze Runner makes its unceremonious entry as yet another book adaptation that many sane-headed people would be wary about. It really doesn’t help on paper that it stars potential fangirl-magnet Dylan O’Brien (of Teen Wolf fame). There is a twist, however. The first look of the film actually looks ridiculously good. The dark, almost tense and claustrophobic universe the characters are a part of sets the potential audience up for more than just the usual fight-for-good-and-romance-on-the-side dish at the movies.

This shouldn’t surprise us, especially considering Wes Ball’s terrific animated dystopian-world action short Ruin gives us a fair idea of tension, pace and ambient space. Making his debut on the big screen, we’re made to see why the studios picked him in the first place – at least partly.

The doubts? They still stand though. Some of the most ridiculously good looking movie trailers can lead us to the most nightmarishly inane movie exercises ever.

What’s it About?

Doubt, however, is what drives Thomas forward rather than backward. Brought into a mysterious place in the middle of the woods called the Glade, shut off from the outside world through nothing but a gigantic, ever-changing maze, Thomas struggles to know who he is, how he came here and – ultimately – how to get out.

What’s the problem then? Nobody seems too pumped about trying to find a way out. Nobody remembers who they were – just their names – and nobody wants to be a part of the maze they’re ultimately trapped in – even though the maze is their only chance of getting out.

Nobody but Thomas, who begins looking for ways out. And as he does, each move of his unfolds a set of events that spins everybody’s idyllic, rule-governed lives in the Glade out of control.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

O'Brien: "Will people see me outside Teen Wolf, like ever?" Ball: "No, but that will not be an excuse to act like poop!" O'Brien: "Um, okay then."

O’Brien: “Will people see me outside Teen Wolf, like ever?”
Ball: “No, but that will not be an excuse to act like poop!”
O’Brien: “Um, okay then.”

One of the main thematic aspects of the kind of topics Wes Ball has chosen in all the movies he’s made (short, and now feature) is rebellion – passive or otherwise – amongst his other connective ideals of being the only (and lonely) different one amidst a claustrophobic conundrum of normalcy (a major example being his other drama short A Work in Progress). Now although the concept’s credit goes completely to the creator of the original source material James Dashner, one can see how Ball fits the bill to the T. The screenplay by television producer Noah Oppenheim (for whom this is his feature film debut) wastes no time in introduction or the how-it-happened (as a lot of films usually end up doing) and instead begins the movie right where it should. The audience is introduced to a character who’s trying to piece together his own past and the reason he’s placed at the very core of this maze. Nuggets of information are thrown at you – not more, not less, just the right amount – for you to process and uncover the clues one by one. The unhurried, consistently toned screenplay is given superior direction by Ball, who gets the best out of his performers, making them feel utterly believable and relatable in a world unlike the one we live in. The movie treads similar pathways of fatal curiosity, rebellion and the imminent uprising against the questionable rules of the societal structure. Quite unlike other young-adult action franchises however, the movie doesn’t for a single moment stray off the core concept and the story woven around it. There aren’t any unnecessary romantic subplots or manipulative emotional trappings. You’re made to feel that there will be a kindling of a romance of some sort, but that doesn’t happen.

The movie excels in tension that just does not let go. Every action set-piece – superbly designed, choreographed and directed – only throttles the tension levels way up in the film. The viewer is made to feel like they’re more a part of the action than a mere spectator, which helps. Add to that the presence of a whole set of characters you manage to form a bond with, and you’ve got a film that keeps you involved till the end of it all. Helping the action sequences is the intense fast-moving camerawork that supports Enrique Chediak’s (127 Hours) impressive cinematography through the movie’s runtime. Chediak makes regular use of angles, natural and dramatic lighting, and framing to enhance emotion through space, sight and atmosphere. The movie has a fairly consistent edit-range by Dan Zimmerman (Max Payne), which allow the emotion and action in the story to take over, rather than stylistically choppy editing gimmickry. The visual effects are effective, and the fact that the visual effects artists have worked hard shows in the design and modeling of the otherworldly creatures in the film. The movie boasts of crazy attention to detail in its production design – especially its art direction – which literally manages to sell the film’s parallel universe to the audience. John Paesano (television’s Dragons) spins out a score that only enhances the tension in the film. If there’s anything that shoots up the creepy realism and believability factor in the film, it’s the excellent sound design. The movie boasts of some fantastic audio work that allows the audience not just to witness, but also to hear and eventually feel, the some of the most unreal moments in it.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Thomas: "We're not falling in love." Teresa: "Cool shit." Thomas: "Yeah. We're hipsters yo."

Thomas: “We’re not falling in love.”
Teresa: “Cool shit.”
Thomas: “Yeah. We’re hipsters yo.”

I haven’t seen Teen Wolf, so I wouldn’t know Dylan O’Brien’s performative range in the series. All I do know is that O’Brien manages to impress the audience by a million miles here. His embodiment of the character’s curiosity, vulnerability and proactivity is nothing short of splendid. Thomas Sangster (Love Actually) comes in a close second with his portrayal of the gentle-but-cautious know all. Aml Ameen as the rulemaker is both charming and believable – he sells himself as the leader of the pack well enough. Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) as the aggressive-envious rule follower earns our instant dislike as an audience member. That in itself shows that he’s succeeded. Kaya Scodelario (television’s Skins) has a relatively short role, but as the character that sets the ball rolling, she’s fun to watch. We get a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her in the universe soon. Ki Hong Lee (television’s The Nine Lives of Chloe King) as one of the runners provides ample support to the film. Blake Cooper as the youngest Glader Chuck is impressive. The audience is able to connect – and sympathize with – the character. Patricia Clarkson has the shortest – and also the most impactful – appearance in the film. Watch the film to know why. Others are efficient.

Worth it?

The film may not be as original as the last completely fresh-off-the-box Chronicle; what with it being yet another book adaptation – this time from Dashner’s young-adult novel series. While the movie safely slots itself in the genre-type that The Hunger Games and The Divergent Series have become today as franchises, it also takes the risk of bringing to screen a fairly intimate, almost claustrophobic science fiction action thriller – and it seems the risk has paid off, and lots more. This is a film that succeeds not just in being to-the-point in terms of writing and brilliant in its direction of pace, but also bringing in a fairly talented bunch of actors that make its full-bodied characters come alive.

As a conclusive statement, if there’s any commercial film you need to catch this month, let it be The Maze Runner. Far from what you’d expect the kind of bracket you’ve put the movie in to do, the movie itself is an astonishingly fantastic, brilliantly paced and well-acted piece of work. In a world filled with some of the most atrocious book-to-movie adaptations one could have the tolerance level to watch – Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, and the infamous The Twilight Saga bearing testimony to the fact – this film comes as a huge surprise.

Definitely recommended.

Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us

Cast Dylan O’Brian
Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Will Poulter
Director Wes Ball
Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!

What to Expect

Hello, young-adult-money-spinning-book-franchise-adaptation-type, we meet again!

Hello, young-adult-money-spinning-book-franchise-adaptation-type, we meet again!

What does one expect from a young-adult movie nowadays? It’s hard to say, really, because to be honest, there’s almost nothing.

One of the toughest things about the genre and the kind of audience it attracts is the very formula it keeps falling back upon. It’s either the vampires, or a futuristic world – both of which (probably) contain an important female protagonist trying to sort out the odds of her life, either romantically or through the issues of the dystopian world she inhabits. Of the lot, the only critically and commercially successful one has to be The Hunger Games as a franchise. Both as an adaptation and as a political voice on pressing issues of the human societal structure, The Hunger Games has managed to hold the audiences brilliantly till the end.

But is that really the end of the kind of young-adult films we’ve got? Of course, we’ve got our share of absolutely important coming-of-age dramedies like The Spectacular Now (directed painfully well by James Ponsoldt), The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower that people have got to see – but for bigger budgeted ideas, is that all we’ve got?

This exactly the point in time when The Maze Runner makes its unceremonious entry as yet another book adaptation that many sane-headed people would be wary about. It really doesn’t help on paper that it stars potential fangirl-magnet Dylan O’Brien (of Teen Wolf fame). There is a twist, however. The first look of the film actually looks ridiculously good. The dark, almost tense and claustrophobic universe the characters are a part of sets the potential audience up for more than just the usual fight-for-good-and-romance-on-the-side dish at the movies.

This shouldn’t surprise us, especially considering Wes Ball’s terrific animated dystopian-world action short Ruin gives us a fair idea of tension, pace and ambient space. Making his debut on the big screen, we’re made to see why the studios picked him in the first place – at least partly.

The doubts? They still stand though. Some of the most ridiculously good looking movie trailers can lead us to the most nightmarishly inane movie exercises ever.

What’s it About?

Doubt, however, is what drives Thomas forward rather than backward. Brought into a mysterious place in the middle of the woods called the Glade, shut off from the outside world through nothing but a gigantic, ever-changing maze, Thomas struggles to know who he is, how he came here and – ultimately – how to get out.

What’s the problem then? Nobody seems too pumped about trying to find a way out. Nobody remembers who they were – just their names – and nobody wants to be a part of the maze they’re ultimately trapped in – even though the maze is their only chance of getting out.

Nobody but Thomas, who begins looking for ways out. And as he does, each move of his unfolds a set of events that spins everybody’s idyllic, rule-governed lives in the Glade out of control.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

O'Brien: "Will people see me outside Teen Wolf, like ever?" Ball: "No, but that will not be an excuse to act like poop!" O'Brien: "Um, okay then."

O’Brien: “Will people see me outside Teen Wolf, like ever?”
Ball: “No, but that will not be an excuse to act like poop!”
O’Brien: “Um, okay then.”

One of the main thematic aspects of the kind of topics Wes Ball has chosen in all the movies he’s made (short, and now feature) is rebellion – passive or otherwise – amongst his other connective ideals of being the only (and lonely) different one amidst a claustrophobic conundrum of normalcy (a major example being his other drama short A Work in Progress). Now although the concept’s credit goes completely to the creator of the original source material James Dashner, one can see how Ball fits the bill to the T. The screenplay by television producer Noah Oppenheim (for whom this is his feature film debut) wastes no time in introduction or the how-it-happened (as a lot of films usually end up doing) and instead begins the movie right where it should. The audience is introduced to a character who’s trying to piece together his own past and the reason he’s placed at the very core of this maze. Nuggets of information are thrown at you – not more, not less, just the right amount – for you to process and uncover the clues one by one. The unhurried, consistently toned screenplay is given superior direction by Ball, who gets the best out of his performers, making them feel utterly believable and relatable in a world unlike the one we live in. The movie treads similar pathways of fatal curiosity, rebellion and the imminent uprising against the questionable rules of the societal structure. Quite unlike other young-adult action franchises however, the movie doesn’t for a single moment stray off the core concept and the story woven around it. There aren’t any unnecessary romantic subplots or manipulative emotional trappings. You’re made to feel that there will be a kindling of a romance of some sort, but that doesn’t happen.

The movie excels in tension that just does not let go. Every action set-piece – superbly designed, choreographed and directed – only throttles the tension levels way up in the film. The viewer is made to feel like they’re more a part of the action than a mere spectator, which helps. Add to that the presence of a whole set of characters you manage to form a bond with, and you’ve got a film that keeps you involved till the end of it all. Helping the action sequences is the intense fast-moving camerawork that supports Enrique Chediak’s (127 Hours) impressive cinematography through the movie’s runtime. Chediak makes regular use of angles, natural and dramatic lighting, and framing to enhance emotion through space, sight and atmosphere. The movie has a fairly consistent edit-range by Dan Zimmerman (Max Payne), which allow the emotion and action in the story to take over, rather than stylistically choppy editing gimmickry. The visual effects are effective, and the fact that the visual effects artists have worked hard shows in the design and modeling of the otherworldly creatures in the film. The movie boasts of crazy attention to detail in its production design – especially its art direction – which literally manages to sell the film’s parallel universe to the audience. John Paesano (television’s Dragons) spins out a score that only enhances the tension in the film. If there’s anything that shoots up the creepy realism and believability factor in the film, it’s the excellent sound design. The movie boasts of some fantastic audio work that allows the audience not just to witness, but also to hear and eventually feel, the some of the most unreal moments in it.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Thomas: "We're not falling in love." Teresa: "Cool shit." Thomas: "Yeah. We're hipsters yo."

Thomas: “We’re not falling in love.”
Teresa: “Cool shit.”
Thomas: “Yeah. We’re hipsters yo.”

I haven’t seen Teen Wolf, so I wouldn’t know Dylan O’Brien’s performative range in the series. All I do know is that O’Brien manages to impress the audience by a million miles here. His embodiment of the character’s curiosity, vulnerability and proactivity is nothing short of splendid. Thomas Sangster (Love Actually) comes in a close second with his portrayal of the gentle-but-cautious know all. Aml Ameen as the rulemaker is both charming and believable – he sells himself as the leader of the pack well enough. Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) as the aggressive-envious rule follower earns our instant dislike as an audience member. That in itself shows that he’s succeeded. Kaya Scodelario (television’s Skins) has a relatively short role, but as the character that sets the ball rolling, she’s fun to watch. We get a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her in the universe soon. Ki Hong Lee (television’s The Nine Lives of Chloe King) as one of the runners provides ample support to the film. Blake Cooper as the youngest Glader Chuck is impressive. The audience is able to connect – and sympathize with – the character. Patricia Clarkson has the shortest – and also the most impactful – appearance in the film. Watch the film to know why. Others are efficient.

Worth it?

The film may not be as original as the last completely fresh-off-the-box Chronicle; what with it being yet another book adaptation – this time from Dashner’s young-adult novel series. While the movie safely slots itself in the genre-type that The Hunger Games and The Divergent Series have become today as franchises, it also takes the risk of bringing to screen a fairly intimate, almost claustrophobic science fiction action thriller – and it seems the risk has paid off, and lots more. This is a film that succeeds not just in being to-the-point in terms of writing and brilliant in its direction of pace, but also bringing in a fairly talented bunch of actors that make its full-bodied characters come alive.

As a conclusive statement, if there’s any commercial film you need to catch this month, let it be The Maze Runner. Far from what you’d expect the kind of bracket you’ve put the movie in to do, the movie itself is an astonishingly fantastic, brilliantly paced and well-acted piece of work. In a world filled with some of the most atrocious book-to-movie adaptations one could have the tolerance level to watch – Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, and the infamous The Twilight Saga bearing testimony to the fact – this film comes as a huge surprise.

Definitely recommended.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

We’re viral

Like usFollow us
Cast Dylan O’Brian
Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Will Poulter
Director Wes Ball
Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!

What to Expect

What does one expect from a young-adult movie nowadays? It’s hard to say, really, because to be honest, there’s almost nothing.

One of the toughest things about the genre and the kind of audience it attracts is the very formula it keeps falling back upon. It’s either the vampires, or a futuristic world – both of which (probably) contain an important female protagonist trying to sort out the odds of her life, either romantically or through the issues of the dystopian world she inhabits. Of the lot, the only critically and commercially successful one has to be The Hunger Games as a franchise. Both as an adaptation and as a political voice on pressing issues of the human societal structure, The Hunger Games has managed to hold the audiences brilliantly till the end.

But is that really the end of the kind of young-adult films we’ve got? Of course, we’ve got our share of absolutely important coming-of-age dramedies like The Spectacular Now (directed painfully well by James Ponsoldt), The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower that people have got to see – but for bigger budgeted ideas, is that all we’ve got?

This exactly the point in time when The Maze Runner makes its unceremonious entry as yet another book adaptation that many sane-headed people would be wary about. It really doesn’t help on paper that it stars potential fangirl-magnet Dylan O’Brien (of Teen Wolf fame). There is a twist, however. The first look of the film actually looks ridiculously good. The dark, almost tense and claustrophobic universe the characters are a part of sets the potential audience up for more than just the usual fight-for-good-and-romance-on-the-side dish at the movies.

This shouldn’t surprise us, especially considering Wes Ball’s terrific animated dystopian-world action short Ruin gives us a fair idea of tension, pace and ambient space. Making his debut on the big screen, we’re made to see why the studios picked him in the first place – at least partly.

The doubts? They still stand though. Some of the most ridiculously good looking movie trailers can lead us to the most nightmarishly inane movie exercises ever.

What’s it About?

Doubt, however, is what drives Thomas forward rather than backward. Brought into a mysterious place in the middle of the woods called the Glade, shut off from the outside world through nothing but a gigantic, ever-changing maze, Thomas struggles to know who he is, how he came here and – ultimately – how to get out.

What’s the problem then? Nobody seems too pumped about trying to find a way out. Nobody remembers who they were – just their names – and nobody wants to be a part of the maze they’re ultimately trapped in – even though the maze is their only chance of getting out.

Nobody but Thomas, who begins looking for ways out. And as he does, each move of his unfolds a set of events that spins everybody’s idyllic, rule-governed lives in the Glade out of control.

Some good acting chops!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

One of the main thematic aspects of the kind of topics Wes Ball has chosen in all the movies he’s made (short, and now feature) is rebellion – passive or otherwise – amongst his other connective ideals of being the only (and lonely) different one amidst a claustrophobic conundrum of normalcy (a major example being his other drama short A Work in Progress). Now although the concept’s credit goes completely to the creator of the original source material James Dashner, one can see how Ball fits the bill to the T. The screenplay by television producer Noah Oppenheim (for whom this is his feature film debut) wastes no time in introduction or the how-it-happened (as a lot of films usually end up doing) and instead begins the movie right where it should. The audience is introduced to a character who’s trying to piece together his own past and the reason he’s placed at the very core of this maze. Nuggets of information are thrown at you – not more, not less, just the right amount – for you to process and uncover the clues one by one. The unhurried, consistently toned screenplay is given superior direction by Ball, who gets the best out of his performers, making them feel utterly believable and relatable in a world unlike the one we live in. The movie treads similar pathways of fatal curiosity, rebellion and the imminent uprising against the questionable rules of the societal structure. Quite unlike other young-adult action franchises however, the movie doesn’t for a single moment stray off the core concept and the story woven around it. There aren’t any unnecessary romantic subplots or manipulative emotional trappings. You’re made to feel that there will be a kindling of a romance of some sort, but that doesn’t happen.

The movie excels in tension that just does not let go. Every action set-piece – superbly designed, choreographed and directed – only throttles the tension levels way up in the film. The viewer is made to feel like they’re more a part of the action than a mere spectator, which helps. Add to that the presence of a whole set of characters you manage to form a bond with, and you’ve got a film that keeps you involved till the end of it all. Helping the action sequences is the intense fast-moving camerawork that supports Enrique Chediak’s (127 Hours) impressive cinematography through the movie’s runtime. Chediak makes regular use of angles, natural and dramatic lighting, and framing to enhance emotion through space, sight and atmosphere. The movie has a fairly consistent edit-range by Dan Zimmerman (Max Payne), which allow the emotion and action in the story to take over, rather than stylistically choppy editing gimmickry. The visual effects are effective, and the fact that the visual effects artists have worked hard shows in the design and modeling of the otherworldly creatures in the film. The movie boasts of crazy attention to detail in its production design – especially its art direction – which literally manages to sell the film’s parallel universe to the audience. John Paesano (television’s Dragons) spins out a score that only enhances the tension in the film. If there’s anything that shoots up the creepy realism and believability factor in the film, it’s the excellent sound design. The movie boasts of some fantastic audio work that allows the audience not just to witness, but also to hear and eventually feel, the some of the most unreal moments in it.

Nope. No romance to see here.

To Perform or Not to Perform

I haven’t seen Teen Wolf, so I wouldn’t know Dylan O’Brien’s performative range in the series. All I do know is that O’Brien manages to impress the audience by a million miles here. His embodiment of the character’s curiosity, vulnerability and proactivity is nothing short of splendid. Thomas Sangster (Love Actually) comes in a close second with his portrayal of the gentle-but-cautious know all. Aml Ameen as the rulemaker is both charming and believable – he sells himself as the leader of the pack well enough. Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) as the aggressive-envious rule follower earns our instant dislike as an audience member. That in itself shows that he’s succeeded. Kaya Scodelario (television’s Skins) has a relatively short role, but as the character that sets the ball rolling, she’s fun to watch. We get a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her in the universe soon. Ki Hong Lee (television’s The Nine Lives of Chloe King) as one of the runners provides ample support to the film. Blake Cooper as the youngest Glader Chuck is impressive. The audience is able to connect – and sympathize with – the character. Patricia Clarkson has the shortest – and also the most impactful – appearance in the film. Watch the film to know why. Others are efficient.

Worth it?

The film may not be as original as the last completely fresh-off-the-box Chronicle; what with it being yet another book adaptation – this time from Dashner’s young-adult novel series. While the movie safely slots itself in the genre-type that The Hunger Games and The Divergent Series have become today as franchises, it also takes the risk of bringing to screen a fairly intimate, almost claustrophobic science fiction action thriller – and it seems the risk has paid off, and lots more. This is a film that succeeds not just in being to-the-point in terms of writing and brilliant in its direction of pace, but also bringing in a fairly talented bunch of actors that make its full-bodied characters come alive.

As a conclusive statement, if there’s any commercial film you need to catch this month, let it be The Maze Runner. Far from what you’d expect the kind of bracket you’ve put the movie in to do, the movie itself is an astonishingly fantastic, brilliantly paced and well-acted piece of work. In a world filled with some of the most atrocious book-to-movie adaptations one could have the tolerance level to watch – Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, and the infamous The Twilight Saga bearing testimony to the fact – this film comes as a huge surprise.

Definitely recommended.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

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Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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  1. Pingback: The Maze Runner: Movie Review | Cinema Elite

    1. Well, as far as ratings go, lets just say I loved the film a bit much for my own good I guess! What I can definitely say on a saner level (haha) is the movie was stellar entertainment. Gold indeed!

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