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Showing how much The Hunger Games has become the new influential film which all who follow aspire to be, you get The Maze Runner.
Review (with Spoilers)
Media dealing with young adults going through various types of drama pretty much is the majority of the stuff I watch and read. So, naturally, with a new young adult novel being adapted to replace The Hunger Games once it ends its run, it is hard to not be excited. Especially since it seems the torch for young adult novels has been passed in such a way where each preceding one set the tone for all those who followed. Harry Potter started it all, for me anyway, and then the Twilight series became the YA novel adaptation many mimicked and tried to find success by copying, and with The Hunger Games near its end comes The Maze Runner trying to be the next franchise to sit upon the throne. But with the film having a few similar elements to The Hunger Games, but having more recognizable talent with Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf); Thomas Sangster (Game of Thrones); Kaya Scodelario (Skins); Ki-hong Lee (The Nine Lives of Chloe King); Jacob Latimore (Black Nativity); and Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) among the cast, does the film find a way to stand out? Or is it simply the best student of The Hunger Games franchise?
Characters & Story
With the arrival of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) comes many changes in “The Box” also known as “The Glade.” A place where 36 some odd young men have found themselves with their only memory being their name, and the English language. Surrounding them is a maze which has kept the members of The Glade trapped for 3 years. That is until Thomas comes along. Though with Thomas’ arrival, and curiosity, there comes a split. The overall leader is a young man named Alby (Aml Ameen) who doesn’t take part in the split of The Glade, but between Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Gally (Will Poulter) we find ourselves watching as the pragmatic traditionalist Gally, faces off against Newt who simply wants out of this boxed in environment. Especially with the arrival of Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) signaling that no more people would be coming, nor would there likely be any new supplies.
So, we are left with the knowledge Minho (Ki-hong Lee) has of the maze, the curiosity of Thomas, and the hope of all the people trapped in The Glade thinking that one day they may escape.
Like the first Hunger Games, suspense was an odd addition in terms of you not expecting it. For, even though it is fairly clear who are the stars and who are not, there is this strange sense throughout the film that anyone you may grow attached to could die. Be it because of the maze’s robot scorpions, or because of each other, there is a certain amount of belief that anything could happen to anyone. But what really surprised me was Poulter, if just because his role as Gally is a complete opposite from him being Kenny in We’re The Millers.
For, as Gally, Poulter is a would-be villain who, at the end of it all, just comes off complicated. If just because you can tell something is broken inside of him. Be it because of the people he lost, or fear of what is outside being worse than what they have , you can see there is something causing him to act the way he does beyond simply wanting to survive.
Leading us to talk about our hero Mr. O’Brien. Now, to me, while O’Brien physically looks generic, to the point I honestly thought he was Logan Lerman, he does possess just enough charisma to be likable. However, while O’Brien was the clear lead, I found myself more interested in Minho than Thomas. But, with that said, I feel that with such a diverse cast, easily you can find someone who you could attach to if bland white boy isn’t your favorite flavor. I mean, there was perhaps one person who may have been Hispanic, so that area is lacking, but for Black and East Asians, you have options.
Leaving the overall story, of which is good enough just to keep you entertained. For while our heroes are courageous, and the film has 2 definite tear jerker moments, no one in the film is putting on an Oscar winning performance. Mind you, they act appropriately given the various situations, and mindsets, they are under, but the best thing I can say is while it stands above many a generic YA novel adaptation, it doesn’t necessarily break the mold.
When it comes to critiquing this film, pretty much any criticism that can be fathomed deals with comparing this to other films. Such as when one single white boy shows up things begin to change; a character’s death being built up over the film just for the sake of having one real emotional moment; and shallow backstories. Which, I’m sure, will be a problem fixed in the sequels.
Overall: Worth Seeing
To me, while The Maze Runner relies on the formula The Hunger Games setup to tell its story, you can’t necessarily call it a rip-off. If anything, it relies on what The Hunger Games did like a lot of comic book adaptions rely on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy for inspiration. The film takes the elements that worked, integrated what it could, and then pursued being original as possible. Something which I think it succeeded to do in the long run. Hence why I’m labeling this as Worth Seeing.
Things To Note
- A part of me thinks he knew what was outside the labyrinth and was trying to save everyone from finding out. Though with him not being a runner, and perhaps the 2nd person to join the maze after Alby, I’m unsure why he would know, of all people.