For movie fans there’s been no hunger for movies of diverging taste in the realm of the young adult genre that Eclipse books and films spawned.
They continue to come at a rapid clip despite all evidence that says that Hollywood’s grip on younger audiences is slipping.
It doesn’t help that they’ve been hit-or-miss affairs, so much so that walking into The Maze Runner may produce a sense of dread for some if they’ve been coerced into going.
Fear not. The Maze Runner, based on a series of books by James Dashner, at least gives hope that given the right material, there’s something to be said for indulging youth-based films.
The Maze Runner is intelligent, packs plenty of action and features enough wonder to make it a thrilling trip to the theater. Dashner’s take on a future dystopian Earth is wholly original, the characters are well-formed and this first installment offers enough to make you want to see what happens next.
It’s no secret to say the move is a set up a la The Hunger Games meant to take the audience into a deeper, compelling story. It does so successfully from the moment Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is sent surface side from a mysterious elevator as the movie opens.
He awakens among a group of boys, some barely teens, with no memory and plenty of questions. He also arrives and immediately begins to rattle some cages in the quasi idyllic home this group of teens have created on the outskirts of a mysterious, mammoth maze.
The group’s leader, Ably (Aml Ameen) recognizes Thomas for who he is or rather who he can be – a leader. While others, such as Gally (Will Poulter of We Are the Millers), sink into pouty groupthink unwilling to trust the “greenie” as he is called.
But Thomas’ curiosity won’t be corralled and he begins to question the boys’ existence and purpose for being there ultimately leading to a bit of chaos and more questions.
As directed by first-timer Wes Ball, The Maze Runner asks some profound questions that normally wouldn’t see the light of day in films that want to attract teen audiences, but that fact alone makes it all the more appealing.
It also helps that Ball has a handle on the material and his cast. O’Brien’s major acting comes from appearing on MTV’s Teen Wolf, for someone that inexperience he exhibits some acting chops as he serves as the audience’s guide through this maze of a story. Also, be sure to take note of Blake Cooper as Chuck, he’s a young man who could have a bright future on whichever screen he chooses.
The Maze Runner makes you want to take a return trip to Dashner’s world and in the process sparks a genre that had been in danger of going on life support.
Movie: The Maze Runner
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Aml Ameen
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG-13 PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images.
Running time: 113 minutes
George’s rating: 3.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com