Review: ‘The Maze Runner’ (Maximus Mazicus Runnicus)

The only thing more mysterious than the maze is where Minho keeps getting product for his hair.

A teenager (Dylan O’Brien) finds himself inside an elevator speeding toward the top of a narrow shaft, surrounded by supplies and just beyond the reach of shadowy, screeching humanoids on his way up. When the lift stops, the doors above open into a glade…surrounded on all sides by a thick concrete wall, unclimable and several stories tall. Other boys are already in the glade, treating the newcomer like a new recruit to boot camp. A door into the maze opens at dawn and closes at dusk, presumably to keep whatever roams the maze at night out of the glade, and runners spend the hours in between trying to map a way out. The teen can’t remember who he was before he came the glade, but he soon remembers his name: Thomas.

It seems like a neat idea until it doesn’t: young men seeded into a secluded environment with no memory of who they were but all the basics needed to function, seemingly to solve a maze and escape. Problem one is the maze is kind of lame; yes, something is spooky out there at night, but the kids inside seem a lot more volatile. The second problem is a lack of asking the right questions; if someone comes back and the other kids say, “He’s been stung,” wouldn’t the obvious question be, “Stung by WHAT?” There is a frustrating lack of communication between characters throughout the film, but it still remains watchable in spite of this due to the cast, particularly Dylan O’Brien in the lead role. Otherwise, it has a whole lot of Lord of the Flies meets The Running Man thing going on.

The production looks great, but the story is full of holes; it’s a disaster film masquerading as a mystery drama. The word “overkill” comes to mind, especially when you see the resolution…which, since this is a series of books, plays directly into the upcoming sequel (assuming the movie makes enough money). Seriously: if you somehow knew things but not your past (example: you know what girls are but don’t know HOW they are), wouldn’t you be looking at your clothing for clues? Brand names? The letters WCKD on everything? Even the phrases and word choices made by the characters seem now-ish even though it’s obvious the time isn’t now.

While neither as good as The Hunger Games nor as dull as the Divergent series, The Maze Runner has the same secret weapon utilized by MTV’s “Teen Wolf” series: Dylan O’Brien. This young actor can take the most ridiculous situation and convince you that the end of the world is coming, whether it’s werewolves coming or an inbound killer Teddy bear. His level of intensity seems unsustainable, and more often than not, the rest of the actors appear to just be standing around watching to see what he’ll do next and how he’ll do it. He’s a natural lead; is it any wonder the original gladers handed him the proverbial conch shell?

(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)

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