MAZE RUNNER, THE
Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) wakes up in a lift, moving slowly upward. As the box grinds to a halt and the doors open, he finds himself among a colony of boys who welcome him to the Glade - a large open expanse surrounded by enormous concrete walls that lead to the Maze. Thomas' mind is blank. He has no knowledge of who or where he is. Every 30 days a new boy arrives but less than a week after his arrival, the first girl - Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) arrives. Each resident learns the role he has to play, while Thomas starts to think there is something locked in his memories that might help solve the mysteries of the Maze and the world beyond.
Review by Louise Keller:
It doesn't quite have the bite or originality of The Hunger Games, but there are parallels in this first of a new sci-fi action fantasy franchise about survival in a controlled environment. Adapted from a novel by James Dashner, there's an appealing protagonist to root for and the screenplay allows the reality to be well fleshed out so we understand the boundaries and ground rules. It's an intriguing mix of elements and genres with enough differences to make it feel fresh and director Wes Ball handles the material well. Dylan O'Brien, who plays Thomas, the protagonist through whose eyes we make our journey, is the film's greatest asset, with his distinctive fine bone structure, a sensitive disposition and charismatic presence.
The film begins in a wire cage lift that ascends noisily and roughly. Thomas is on all fours, obviously in distress as he arrives at his destination, about which he knows nothing. The group of young boys who greet him quickly convey the rules of this new walled world from which there is no escape. Paramount is the rule never to go beyond the towering concrete walls where a multi-sectioned ever-changing maze exists and from where terrifying rumbling sounds appear. Clearly different from the rest, Thomas' attributes become apparent straight away: he is curious, courageous and decisive.
The characters are a mixed bunch: Will Poulter is effective as Gally, who represents conflict and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ami Ameen and Ki Hong Lee are engaging enough characters that support Thomas. Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) contributes little other than to be the token female in the group, and Blake Cooper is irritating as Chuck the chubby kid. Although her screen time is short, Patricia Clarkson makes a chilling impact as the woman in the white coat, who appears in Thomas' dreams of fragmented memories. We remain focused as Thomas leads the charge into the maze trying to determine the answers to the who, why, where questions and how they can potentially escape.
Soon there is another string of questions to be answered: What connection does Teresa have to Thomas? What do the numbers mean on the massive concrete walls? And where do the mechanical and gigantic spider-like creatures come from? There are numerous scary moments and the sequence in which the deadly creature pursues Thomas in the maze is tense and frightening. Those knife-like claws are enough to keep you awake at night. The soundscape and music score pound relentlessly, and there does come a point when the exposition seems rather silly.
But it all comes out in the wash and there are a few surprises as the story takes a final U-turn as the solution to the riddle of the maze becomes evident. The film is certain to attract its young target market and the door is left wide open for the sequel - which we suspect will not be too far away.
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MAZE RUNNER, THE (M)
CAST: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson
PRODUCER: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Gotham Group, Lee Stollman, Lindsay Williams
DIRECTOR: Wes Ball
SCRIPT: Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, TS Nowlin (Novel by James Dashner)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Enrique Chediak
EDITOR: Dan Zimmerman
MUSIC: John Paesano
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marc Fisichella
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 18, 2014