If suspense were all that mattered in a movie, THE MAZE RUNNER would get a 10 from me. Filled with suspense from the first jarring moments to the last chaotic scene, it overwhelms and envelopes you. All that suspense, however, creates a bit of a problem, because the final scene should end with a satisfying conclusion. But before we get to this problem, let’s get into the meat of the film in this spoiler-free THE MAZE RUNNER review.
The opening scene begins promisingly with a loud, jarring BANG from the back of the theater’s surround sound. The sounds start enveloping you all around, all just a little too loud, as you get glimpses of a visual in which you realize you’re in an elevator moving upward to an unknown destination. It’s meant to be jarring, which echos exactly what the main character, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is feeling.
The elevator stops and he finds himself, along with 25 or 30 other young men, in a wooded area known as the Glade, that’s surrounded by massive walls that open every morning onto a huge maze. The leader of the boys is Alby (Aml Ameen) who has been there longer than anyone else.
No one knows why they’re there and all have no memories except for their names. The maze that surrounds them changes nightly, and monsters called Grievers live in it, threatening any that try to escape.
Having nothing else to do, the boys have divided themselves into groups, based upon their particular skill-sets (similar in some ways to the classifications in other young adult novel-based movies like DIVERGENT, ENDER’S GAME or the HARRY POTTER movies). One such group are the Runners, who explore and map the Maze each day, in an effort to find a way out. Curious, questioning Thomas gravitates toward this group.
Overall the special effects were fantastic. At no point did I question whether the Maze or anything else onscreen was real. I was completely involved in the visuals placed before me. Digital SFX have come a long way!
Much like THE VILLAGE directed by M. Night Shamyalan, THE MAZE RUNNER has a twist at the end. The movie also follows in the footsteps of the extremely popular HUNGER GAMES films. If you are unfamiliar with THE MAZE RUNNER young adult book, as I was, you spend the entire movie trying to figure out why this Maze exists, and why these boys are put in the middle of the maze. Overall the film does a wonderful job of giving you bits of information as you watch, giving you just enough to keep you intrigued yet frustrated.
It is towards the end that THE MAZE RUNNER starts to unravel. Unlike THE VILLAGE, where there is a clear “Ah-Ha!” moment, THE MAZE RUNNER left me feeling flat because I could not relate to the reason the Maze exists. In an attempt to set up the next movie, this first film does not have a satisfactory ending.
However, 20th Century Fox need not fear. If previous young adult book-turned-movie franchises are any indication, teenagers will gobble this movie up. If they are fans of the book, they will love to see the world acted out on-screen. The actors are cute, the world created within THE MAZE RUNNER is fully realized. In fact, after seeing this movie, I’m tempted to pick up the book to see if the ending is any better, or helps explain what I just saw in the theater.