Following in the footsteps of Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent comes The Maze Runner, the next young adult book series to get the big screen treatment. James Dashner’s 2009 hit novel has been adapted by newbie director Wes Ball with the hope of jumping on the bandwagon of the highly profitable young adult market.
The film revolves around a group of young lads who find themselves living inside a gigantic maze with seemingly no hope of escape, having had their memories wiped. Each month, a new boy is added to the mix, and after several years it has become a tight-knit community of several dozen young men, led by Alby (Aml Ameen), who have adapted well to their mysterious surroundings in order to survive. Thomas (Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) is the latest to arrive, and soon after things begin to change. Not happy with sitting back and accepting his fate, Thomas challenges the norm, much to the annoyance of some of the others, most notably the uptight Gally (Will Poulter). With the help of some of the more powerful members of the community, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), the ever-lovable Chuck (Blake Cooper), and the first girl to enter the maze, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Thomas leads them into the unknown to try and find not just a way out, but answers to why they were trapped there in the first place.
This is a humourless affair with a lack of playfulness that you get from other YA flicks. Even The Hunger Games has a little of that, despite its kick-ass nature, but The Maze Runner is devoid of any, but it still manages to work. Its dark, gritty nature – the driving force behind a powerful storyline – added together with some impressive acting from a young cast, is enough to make this a thoroughly enjoyable – and deadly serious – affair. Unlike the snooze-fest that was Divergent, the plot is engaging enough – and the characters varied and interesting, despite no one ever cracking a smile – that it hooks you from the start. Poulter’s deadpan impression of Gilly is excellent, whilst O’Brien’s Thomas – although kind of hard to like – has enough tenaciousness to make you want to back him to the end. Throw in the charming Chuck – the small, podgy youngster of the group – and you have a set of characters you can believe in.
Ball did a great job in maintaining a good pace without it ever feeling overcooked. There is little room for sentiment, nor any cheesy antics; it is a film that gets straight to the point. The best compliment I can give the movie is that it left me hungry for more. It may lack the star power of J-Law and The Hunger Games, or even the emotional draw of Twilight, but The Maze Runner has an intriguing story behind it and a varied cast who viewers will want to get behind.