The Maze Runner
Posted September 20, 2014 by Daniel Hodgson in
It’s not that The Maze Runner is a bad adaptation. It’s that it’s adapted to the wrong medium.
The story, based on the best-selling YA novel by James Dashner, follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), a smart teenager who wakes up in a cramped elevator, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The lift takes him upwards to ground level, emerging outside in a leafy glade, where he is met by other amnesiac teens like himself, all male, who call themselves “Gladers.”
The Glade is surrounded on all sides by enormous, insurmountable walls. A passageway leads to The Maze, which changes each day. At sunset, massive gates close the passageway, trapping anyone inside till the following morning. No one has survived a night in the maze.
You know what’s going to happen next in a plot with the autopilot switch turned on. Circumstances will conspire to have Thomas trapped inside, where he will come face-to-face with the dangers therein.
The Maze is filled with Grievers—giant cybernetic scorpions with robotic stingers. The stinger’s poison will restore the memory of its victim, but will also slowly drive them mad before the fatal toxin runs its course.
The Maze itself is just as much a threat as the Grievers. Walls close in, narrow walkways are surrounded by pits on either side. There are doors that can open if the Maze Runners have the corresponding keys.
Wait a minute here. Platforms, monsters, keys? Is Maze Runner coming out on all consoles, or is it a PS4 exclusive?
Thomas must time his moves so that he can get through the maze and defeat his enemies, like Mario trying to get through World 4 – 4. There is such a huge emphasis on action over characterization that the movie feels like it’s created by level designers rather than screenwriters. The story lacks humanity, and many of the characters lack personality. Late in the story, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) emerges from the elevator, and reveals exactly zero personality traits over the course of her screen time. She is not alone in that regard.
This is the first part of a studio tent pole, clearly part of a planned franchise trying to cash-in on the YA craze, with The Maze Runner being a rare male-centric instance of a genre often targeted at teen and pre-teen girls. As such, the biggest failing of this first installment is that it is not a self-contained, satisfying story in its own right. I would compare it to The Mortal Instruments in how many holes it has and how much of it just doesn’t add up. The explanation the story gives at the end doesn’t explain anything—quite deliberately on the screenplay’s part. Not only does it not make sense, it refuses to make sense.
Spoilers here, but please realize that the movie is based on a novel over five years old. As it turns out, the Earth was scorched by the Sun, and then a viral-plague ravaged the survivors. Some of a new generation of humans were born resistant to the virus. So, scientists did the next logical thing: they constructed a big-ass maze, and filled it with big-ass robot-scorpions which would inject the teens with the virus, and then study how the behavior of the teens would change in a controlled environment, having erased their memories and identities …what?! Exactly how baked were the virologists when they came up with this plan? What possible purpose can any of this serve?
I don’t know. I don’t care to know. This is not a film critique, because this not a film. It’s not even a movie, cinema as pure entertainment rather than art-form. The Maze Runner is a video game you can’t play. Maybe I can send this in to Game Informer with my resume…