Movies

Movie Review: The Maze Runner

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MV5BMjUyNTA3MTAyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTEyMTkyMjE@._V1_SX214_AL_As a sci-fi fan, I wasn’t running to the theater to see “The Maze Runner.” 

The trailer first seen at WonderCon and the 20th Century Fox press conference I attended at Comic-Con earlier this year didn’t generate nearly as much anticipation as “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent.” And the story didn’t come across as thought-provoking as “The Giver.” Compared to other YA dystopian adaptations, this one seems to be as simplistic as a bunch of boys trapped in maze, banding together to survive and escape, mixed with trite teen drama. To my surprise, the movie ends up like “Ender’s Game,” as in way better than I initially thought.

Directed by Wes Ball, “The Maze Runner” is adapted from James Dashner’s novel. A teenage boy, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), wakes up in an underground elevator. The elevator ascends to a meadow called the Glade, partially bordered by a forest and enclosed by towering walls. He doesn’t know who he is and has no memories of his past. Shortly after he’s surrounded by other boys, who have had a similar experience and been forced to live there for the last three years. In other words, they’re inexplicably trapped there. Each month a new boy arrives the same way, accompanied by some supplies.

The Glade is encircled by a massive, menacing maze. The entrance to the maze is open during daylight and closed at sundown. At nighttime, scary flesh-eating monsters, alien-like mechanical spiders, troll through the maze. Anyone who has spent the night in the maze never returns or lives to tell the tale.mazerunner2

Thomas finds a makeshift society functioning, run by a self-anointed leader, Gally (Will Poulter), along with his right-hand man, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster). People are assigned to certain functions to help sustain their living, such as food-gathering, plant-growing, shelter-building and glade-guarding. And perhaps most importantly, there are “runners,” designated to enter the maze during daytime, mapping out and memorizing routes in hopes that they would eventually be able to find a way out.

As the sun sets and the maze entryway closes, one runner, Minho (Ki Hong Lee), tries fruitlessly to make it back towards the Glade. He’s weighed down by an unconscious fellow runner, Alby (Aml Ameen). Alby was the first boy to arrive at the Glade. Thomas sprints towards them to help and ends up trapped inside the maze. What happens next is one of the most thrillingly terrifying scenes, a hide-and-seek and face-off with a Griever.

When Thomas makes it out alive, he collides with rules-enforcing Gally, but also makes friends with those who now look up to him. He especially bonds with the youngest in the bunch, Chuck (Blake Cooper). Complicating the situation is the arrival of the latest member, unexpectedly, a girl named Teresa (Kara Scodelario), holding a note that she will be the last person to arrive at the Glade.

Officially appointed as a runner, Thomas goes back into the maze along with another runner to piece together clues and uncover an escape route. If only it were that easy. Peril lurks at every turn. Both boys find themselves running for their lives, as metal plates and stone walls close in, breaking apart or crashing down on them. Later that night, for the first time ever, the Grievers come out from hiding and attack.

mazerunner3For the most part, indeed, the movie is about a bunch of boys trapped in a maze, banding together to survive and escape. But all the elements, terrorizing set pieces, claustrophobic atmosphere, capable acting and well-shot wall-to-wall action scenes, add up to constant suspense. And there’s a clash of ideals running throughout – security and comfort versus risk and freedom. Would you stay in your comfort zone knowing that you’re reasonably safe and alive, or would you risk it all and fight to the death if necessary for a chance of freedom?

While the larger-picture ending provides more questions than answers, it does give out a level of explanation to the remaining survivors about what happened to them and why. The story, of course, doesn’t end there. Mystery remains as they take off to an unknown destination. It’s intriguing enough that I’m now anticipating the next installment, “The Scorch Trials.” The sequel is set to premiere on September 18, 2015.

Copyright (c) 2014. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (http://sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: http://twitter.com/the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com.

"Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com."

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