Movie Review: The Maze Runner

I’m not going to lie to you. I don’t care for the Young Adult genre. Its shining stars are, well, kind of trite. But the purpose of YA is to explore the arena of late adolescence. And the coming-of-age story is really as old as the concept of the story itself. So why am I reviewing The Maze Runner? Literally, the only reason I even know about this series is because Ken Barthelmey did some concept art for the film, namely creature design for the Grievers.

Ken is one of my favorite creature artists, so I decided to check the film out. I haven’t read the book beyond the first paragraph, so I can’t compare the two yet. It’s next on my reading list after I finish the Divergent trilogy. Okay, now to get into the meat of this.

Plot Summary

Spoiler-free Synopsis

Thomas, our protagonist, awakes sans memory in an elevator bound for God only knows where. When he reaches the top, he finds himself among a couple dozen other boys in the Glade, a large, verdant square surrounded by a colossal maze. Only the Runners are allowed to leave the Glade, since the Maze is a dangerous place. Thomas’s arrival signals a change in the status quo, and bad things start to happen: Grievers–the monsters inhabiting the Maze after dark–begin to attack in broad daylight; a girl, Teresa, arrives and upsets the fruit basket; Thomas doesn’t follow any of the rules…you know the drill. Eventually, Thomas becomes a Runner, and he and Minho, the other Runner, find what they think is a way out.

Thoughts

I’ve already mentioned how trite I think the YA genre is. And after watching this movie, I said, “More like ‘The Meh Runner’.” The trailers promise action, thrills, and an immersive, dystopian world. What we get instead is a beautiful world with underdeveloped characters, predictable action sequences, and too many unanswered questions.

The movie’s high point is in the visuals. The Glade captures the feeling of a small, primitive society well, from the foliage to the shelters to the costumes. The Maze itself is reminiscent of ancient ruins, covered in ivy, colossal, mysterious, and dangerous. And I’m very happy that they used Ken Barthelmey’s concept design as the final design for the Grievers without changing much at all. They’re supposed to be terrifying, and they certainly had the potential to be. But they aren’t. Their first scene doesn’t provide much suspense, and of their subsequent scenes, the attack on the Glade is perhaps the best. The only problem is that for most of that scene, the Grievers spend a their time off-camera. When they are prominent on camera, the action suffers from Shaky Cam Disease and Jump Cut Syndrome.

Now for the characters. Some of them are good, like Chuck, Alby, and Thomas. But others leave a lot to be desired, especially Teresa. As it stands right now, she’s little more than a plot device. Granted, this is a trilogy, so she will probably have more of a role in future installments. But all she does is provide a means of escape from the Grievers’ serum, and she has only two vials of antidote, at that. Gally is another one that just feels…off. I don’t know what it is, whether it be his Vulcan eyebrows, his crew cut, or his rapid spiral into vengeful insanity.

I don’t have much to say about the ending. It’s more open than that of The Hunger Games or Divergent, leading right into the next movie, Scorch Trials, which is due out in September. The twisty thing at the end wasn’t something I saw coming, but it wasn’t mind-bending, either.

All in all, the movie wasn’t awesome. But it was good enough to keep me onboard for at least the second one. Not bad for something that I would never have known about if not for my following Ken Barthelmey on deviantART. I give it almost four stars.