By Gary Murray

Starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario and Will Poulter

Written by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin

Directed by Wes Ball

Running time 113 min

MPAA Rating PG-13

Selig Film Rating Matinee


The latest craze in Hollywood has been turning teen novels into films.  Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent are all series novels that appeal to the kids.  They make a ton on cash and have a huge built in audience.  The latest to try and take teen money is The Maze Runner.

An elevator ride starts the adventure.  A young man (Dylan O’Brien) has no idea of who he is and where he is, his memory is a total blank slate.  He is in a glade with a large cache of about 60 young men.  They are all trapped inside with massive walls surrounding the area.  Every once and a while, a door opens exposing a maze of moving walls and passages.  No one knows why they are here and none have any memory of their past.

Gally (Will Poulter) is the leader of the glade, the first young man trapped.  He keeps order with an iron fist, beating down any who challenge his authority.   Some of the boys have to grow food and others have other jobs but the elite are maze runners.  The maze runners go through the area, trying to figure a way out.  Some of the boys have been trapped for years and they are no closer to finding escape.

Eventually, the last young man remembers that his name is Thomas.  He keeps having visions of a laboratory, a director and a young beautiful co-worker.  Thomas believes that they can make it through the maze and demands to become a maze runner.  Protecting the maze are giant beasts called Grievers.  No one has ever survived the night in the maze once the doors close. 

One day, the elevator brings up a young woman with a note saying this will be the last one.  The girl is Teresa and Thomas has seen her in his dreams.  She is somehow connected to the world he was a part of outside the maze. 

Thomas eventually figures out a way to get out of the maze after surviving a night behind the walls and defeating a Griever.   The battle is on between those who want to leave and those who believe that leaving the glade is suicide.  The Maze Runner ends with the adventure of escape and basic revelations of their fate.  The ending doesn’t answer many questions as it does set up the next adventure. 

Director Wes Ball does a solid job of keeping up both the pace and the tension.  There are so many moving parts in the screenplay, from the action elements to the social structure of the boys.  He keeps the balance between simple adventure and complex societal elements of this controlled world.   

The single element that bothers the most is the fact that the film just ends, leaving the audience hanging about what will happen next.  Like so many films that have been produced lately, this is the first part of a trilogy and one has to wait years for the adventure to continue.  Or like in the case of The Golden Compass, Eragon and Inkheart; never see the next episode. 

With such a large cast, it is hard to stand-out but some performances do just that.  The young Blake Cooper just nails the role of Chuck, the youngest of the clan of boys.  He wears his emotions on his torn sleeve and becomes the most sympathetic character.   

Dylan O’Brien plays the leading man role with a certain naive confidence.  He has matinee idol good looks and some solid acting chops.  This should be the first in a very long career for the young actor.

Will Poulter is best known for the comedy role in We’re the Millers.  This performance could not be further away from that role.  He is a strong leader who is also a scared little boy.  He has the single hardest performance of the work and he does it was a grace seldom seen on the screen. 

The Maze Runner feels like a mixture of the communal structure of Lord of the Flies and the adventure of The Goonies.  But, it also feels like the review of 1/3 of a movie.  The film just makes the audience want to see what will happen next. 

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