Story: Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up in an ascending cage. Disoriented and with no memory of his former life, he finds himself in a peaceful commune with a group of kids and young men, who also have no memory of anything but their name. They are lead by Alby (played by Aml Ameen) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster). The group gets monthly supplies from their unknown captures. Escape seems hopeless as the outdoor community is surrounded by a vast maze that changes ever day and closes every night. A sect of the boys, the Runners, makes it their daily task to explore the Maze, learn its pattern, and hopefully find a way out. After three years that seems impossible. Their situation is made more difficult when the maze is occupied by mysterious and dangerous creatures known only as the Grievers. Change is in the wind as Thomas brings an unusual curiosity to the group, he determined to find out why they are there and how to escape. He is plagued by horrible dreams where he is told he will change everything. Things get even more complicated when the first girl, Teresa (played by Kaya Scodelario), comes up in the cage. She recognizes Thomas but neither remember why. She too has similar, vague memories of Thomas’s importance. The enforcer of the group, Gally (played by Will Poulter), doesn’t trust Thomas or Teresa and fights the change Thomas is bringing. But with everything falling apart all around them, Thomas must rally all the boys together if they hope to find an exit from the perilous and deadly maze trapping them all.
Thoughts: The Maze Runner was a surprise. I expected a generic dystopian, Hunger Games esque film. What I got was a movie with a unique premise, well-acted characters, and an intriguing story that grabs you from the very first moments of the film and ceases to let you go even after the credits roll. It would’ve been so easy for this to have been a mindless series of action scenes through a CGI maze, but director Wes Ball makes the film about the characters and the story, which is rather refreshing. The characters are not dumb either. They learn from their mistakes and they are well portrayed by the young actors. The maze does look good, by the way. This film was shot for only $34 million but looks like it had much more.
The world is inventive and the surface of this new universe is only scratched in part one of what will hopefully be a three part series based on the bestselling books by James Dashner. It reminded me of the first Portal game, to be honest. We’re introduced to a new place with hints of what went down, and we are left to piece together what happened ourselves with more concrete answers coming in later installments.
Despite the Jennifer Lawrence films getting all the publicity, I found this infinitely more interesting than any of The Hunger Games films. It may not be a film I ever watch again, but I am eagerly awaiting the sequel that is coming in September of this year. If you missed this one on its initial release, I would give it a shot. It may not be one of the greats, but it’s its own thing and all the better for it.