With so many Young Adult films in our lives already is The Maze Runner just a chip off the old block?
The Young Adult genre seems very much the flavour of the decade. Starting with The Hunger Games and Twilight and now branching off to The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent, Hollywood is definitely going through an angst-ridden teenage phase. Powerful young people taking on responsibility, fighting against the system and wreaking havoc (the good kind) have become the new go-to protagonist.
This all comes alongside dystopian futures, quirky characters, mysterious names for things that should have far simpler names (Abnegation in Divergent, anyone?), all with the aim of introducing worlds we have never seen before. Is The Maze Runner really any different?
Same story, different characters?
Based on James Dashner’s science fiction trilogy, The Maze Runner stars relative newcomer Dylan O’Brien as Thomas, a boy in his teens who finds himself gurgling water and being taken up in a mesh lift, with no memory of how he got there. He is taken up to find similarly aged boys looking down at him. This place is the Glade, where all the boys have been sent – with no clue as to their purpose – and have formed a community over time, headed by Alby (Aml Ameen).
In this group are other key figures such as a second-in-command by the name of Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and an enforcer called Gally (Will Poulter). This mysterious place is a green landscape, surrounded by huge walls with small gaps in them, leading into a maze. Also among the group are Runners – headed by Minho (Ki Hong Lee) – who scout the maze, mapping it out so that eventually they can attempt an escape.
Thomas is instantly curious about this maze and things change when he goes in against orders to save Alby, surviving the night against the dreaded spider-like creatures called Grievers. This leads to several drastic changes within the community as power struggles ensue and the routine is forever altered.
Just like The Hunger Games and Divergent, The Maze Runner also takes place in a dystopian society, presented to the audience in slow, mysterious bursts, trying to force us to wonder what the premise is. In this regard it stays new and fresh, providing a very small cast and setting where the drama can take place within the confines of enclosed spaces. This allows the characters to truly shine and develop, while the basic situation of this new world remaining hidden is a great way to make the audience think and figure out the possibilities.
There are some nice performances from the cast, notably Will Poulter’s representation of the primary antagonist, Gally. With a gradual pace that is steady but not boring, The Maze Runner offers the audience quite an entertaining watch.
Is this a film good enough to feel like it’s something new? In some ways, yes; by providing such a small environment to work within and leaving so much for the audience to guess at. However, in terms of pure storytelling, it feels a lot like we’ve been there and done that; another dystopian society where things have gone awry and there is one special person who can truly save the world, bringing it back to its old, glorious self, is something pretty familiar to us now.
The Maze Runner is rated 12A, and rightfully so, as it features prominent violence and death, but not really enough for it to be troublesome. This new trilogy’s first instalment may not have quite the punch we desire, but it’s probably worth a shot. After all, there are still two more movies to come which may shine a little brighter than this one.