A mix between Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games, the latest YA book to receive a Hollywood makeover is The Maze Runner. Like so often the story is set in a post-apocalyptic world and author James Dashner refrains from any vampire fangs or werewolf bites and centers his trilogy around a group of young boys.
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up to find himself in a vacant filed surrounded by a group of modern day lost boys. He tries to make a run for it but soon discovers that the field is surrounded by towering stone walls with only a tantalizing gap into the unknown as a way out. But before Thomas can escape the boys catch up with him and he discovers a whole new problem, his memory has been wiped.
As Thomas struggles to remember, the boys explain that they all arrived exactly the same way he did, and they are trying to find a way out. This new found tribe have created their own form of society every one has tasks, everyone has rights but there are rules to follow too, the main one being: only runners are allowed into the maze.
Quickly Thomas adapts to this new world but as he learns about the maze hidden behind the walls, the Grievers that kill whoever ventures inside after dark and the mysterious letters W.C.K.D he decides he needs to leave and rescue everyone.
But when he breaks the rule and runs into the maze the carefully crafted world the boys have created threatens to collapse. And then, without warning, a girl is left for the boys to find, Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) and she seems to know more than they do.
The Maze Runner is a better than your average YA film, and it’s low-tech vibe and handcrafted charm adds to a retro feel, making it more believable than it’s excessively CGI’d contemporaries. The cast is well picked, teeny heartthrob Dylan O’Brien stepping out of his sidekick role in the 80s throwbacks Teen Wolf, makes for a strong lead and a buff hero. Camp bully Gally is perfectly played by Will Poulter, Ami Ameen cuts a good figure as the mature leader of the group Alby and lovable chubby kid Chuck is brilliantly captured by Black Cooper. Only the stunning Kaya Scodelario seems out of place as Theresa. But that may not actually be her fault as she is not really needed for the plot and has no real input to any of the twist and turns The Maze Runner takes.
Director Wes Ball has done well in translating James Dashner’s book onto screen, but he does take his time in setting up the story, giving background and building characters. However once the Grievers make their long legged, metallic scorpion-like appearance and the Maze begins to reveal its secrets the plot picks up speed. But since it is the first of a trilogy the ending is left open and those few YA who haven’t read the books are left wondering what the whole thing was really about.
The Maze Runner is enjoyable, just not really much more than that, it holds no real surprises and doesn’t really vary too much from any of those other blockbuster YA films out there. But if you like teenage action and a enjoy a bit of escapism, The Maze Runner may be just perfect for you.