The Maze Runner Movie Review

To estimate the budget of The Maze Runner would be to conclude that it isn't very high, hardly on the level of the Marvel films at least, if only because it's hard to see that it would have such wide appeal. It seems like, more than anything, it was made for young people, especially younger boys, and the older crowd would be excluded from it, in a way that they would not from more generalized "four quadrant" blockbusters. Let it be said, though, that The Maze Runner is not exactly "risky" in the sense that it's piggybacking off the success of other young adult adaptations like Twilight, Divergent, The Book Thief, Ender's Game, and so on. Lacking experience with the genre, I was perhaps more surprised by this film than I should have been.
The Maze Runner

Reservations aside, on the whole, I was entertained by it, having found that the story - simple as it was - unfolded in a comprehensible, intriguing way (if there's one thing to be said about young adult fiction, it's that it does not strive to startle with its unique artistic qualities, but rather to tell a story plainly and convincingly). Though I would regard myself as an adult, apparently I am not immune to pleasures of this kind. The protagonist is a bit one-dimensionally heroic in the same way as, say, Harry Potter, and has a similar, disconcerting lack of weakness, outside of being "too" brave or "too" independently minded, in the same way that people in job interviews claim to be "too" dedicated to their work. All the same, he is more than enough eye candy for the women who attend, and, perhaps because of his lack of personality, is easy to root for. He's kind of like a horoscope - vague enough that everybody can relate, but perhaps too vague to be especially significant to any one person. To the film's credit, the rest of the cast is more than diverse enough, with admittedly two other white males featuring prominently, but also a woman, an Asian and a black person. Of course, this might only be a shallow appeal to the international market, but I like to point out this kind of diversity when it happens, because I appreciate any kind of inclusivity of this type in mainstream film.

Video: The Maze Runner Trailer 20th Century the Maze Runner
One of the unique appeals of the movie is its visuals, especially those of the maze shifting and changing, which are startling in a way that cannot be said of anything from the nauseating, post-Bourne Hunger Games or the televisual Twilight. On the subject of the latter, the single female character in The Maze Runner (outside of the conclusive five minutes, in which new characters are introduced to explain everything that happened prior), played by Kaya Scodelario from Skins, bears a striking resemblance to Kristen Stewart, but sadly is not able to bring the same eccentric energy. The spider creatures (called the Grievers) are perhaps less well animated than the rest, but when it comes to films that are modestly budgeted, you have to pick your battles with the special effects, and I think they picked the right ones.

Toward the end, when (spoilers for people who don't understand how movies work!!!!) they escape the maze, the setting they come across brings to mind the beginning of the second Deus Ex game, which is broadly representative of the increasing synchronicity and synergism between video games and cinema. Mainstream movies are now even adopting the level based structure of mainstream games, wherein each discrete section is separated by a conclusive boss battle, and The Maze Runner provides even more evidence of the merging of the two mediums, each gradually coming to unmistakably resemble the other.

There is a lot of talk lately about how mainstream cinema has become disinterested in adults, and The Maze Runner is nothing if not further proof. It was Star Wars that changed it all, bringing us away from the complex adult characters of films like The Godfather, Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider and even Jaws, and toward archetypes like Luke Skywalker (hero), Princess Leia (damsel in distress), etc. We are locked into a way of thinking where every big budget movie has to follow the Joseph Campbell hero's journey - every protagonist has to be Harry Potter - but I think fatigue is beginning to set in, at least among the people who attend the cinema regularly, because Thomas (the protagonist of the film) is yet another character forced into an impossible situation which forces him to discover his secret, inherent greatness, actualized by the end of the film.

There are other ways for movies to work, and perhaps, more than anything else, what holds The Maze Runner back from being genuinely great is its disinterest in uniqueness - something which might be assumed to bolster its box office (when people only attend the cinemas a few times a year, who cares if it's unique?), but when it hasn't even come close to making back its budget, then maybe not. It's difficult not to pine for the grown-up cinema of previous generations, as it seems like the only way a mainstream director can get away with experimentalism nowadays is if they are infallible hitmakers like Stephen Spielberg or Michael Bay (say what you want about the quality of their films, but both are often eccentric).

Finally, is the Maze Runner worth seeing? I guess so, if you like that sort of thing.

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  1. Good heavens to Betsy! I thought the star O'Brien was homely as a peg! Especially at the beginning with his mouth agape in shock. Definitely a mouth breather.