Articles, Film Reviews

The Maze Runner (2014)

One of the common tasks of worldbuilding is coming up with names for all of the new and fantastical elements/concepts. In The Maze Runner, there are so many of these slang terms that it comes across as a bit distracting. Some of these words could have been cut or just gone without explanation due to how unimportant they are to the overall experience. In fact, the entire film feels bogged down because of its tendency and method of over emphasizing the conflict of the matter. Between the main character’s lack of retention and the flashbacks that follow, The Maze Runner is the kind of amnesic film where the audience is always two steps ahead of the protagonist (even if the protagonist is said to be a fast runner).

After waking up in a rising elevator with no memory, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) finds himself in a grassy land called the Glade. Greeted by a large group of boys, Thomas slowly becomes acquainted with his situation and the sort of quasi-utopia that he has found himself in. Besides the alarming fact that he doesn’t remember anything, Thomas also learns that the Glade is surrounded by a vast maze infested by night roaming cyborg spiders. In order to escape and learn the answers posed from the get-go, Thomas must face the claustrophobic paranoia that shrouds the Glade and enter the maze.

Even with its simple premise and spoon-fed expository dialogue, The Maze Runner is a confusing movie that doesn’t really give you the sort of a closure you’d expect. While it is the first installment of what’s likely to be (at the very least) a trilogy of films, I don’t find it an enjoyable movie experience when a story is chopped up into pieces that can’t stand alone on their own merits.

It’s not as bad of a movie as I’m leading you on to think. The first 35 minutes of it are actually rather gripping. What surprised me the most was the level of atmospheric detail that director Wes Ball infused within the Glade. Sometimes, while the youthful actors were prancing around in Lord of the Flies fashion, I became fixated on the beautifully intricate landscape and vivid sound design. While these sorts of elements should never distract a viewer from the action, they were useful elaborations of the film’s themes. Because of this, I felt like the film did not require its various flashbacks. Up until the first flashback, I was experiencing a confident visual direction that only took a hit when the sudden interjected scenes occurred.

The Maze Runner is one of the more entertaining teen-friendly films of 2014. As a whole, the film does its job in successfully exploring themes of freedom and identity in the context of pre-adulthood. As the story goes, it sidesteps a sense of completion in favor of holding information off for a sequel. Thus, with a running time of nearly two hours, the movie is too long to be such a deliberate stepping-stone. Perhaps once the entire series is complete, my evaluation of the film will be more favorable. But as it stands now, The Maze Runner is a film with a dead-end.

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