The Maze Runner is certainly a flawed film, but it’s still good. It is probably best for audience members to distance themselves from the book before going to see the movie. After all, Divergent was considerable more enjoyable watching the DVD five months after reading the book(s). There are a number of fundamental changes from the novel from the order of events, how Thomas (the main protagonist) figures out the great mystery of the maze, the length of time a game changing event occurs, and the story arcs of a few characters to name a few. It can be frustrating for fans of the novel to see those changes when the novel is so fresh in their minds. People who had their curiosity piqued by the trailer and picked up the book to read before the movie came out as well as fans of the series who re-read the book shortly before the movie came out were likely just as frustrated as people who read the Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Divergent, and every other book that has been adapted to the big screen (especially young adult books where the studios just don’t take the beloved stories as seriously as they do the bottom line). It is just best to get some distance from the book to make the movie less frustrating.
There certainly are no rules for adapting novels to the screen that are written in stone, nor should there be. Perhaps a good guideline would be to trust the audience. Without spoiling the film too much, the screenwriters make a similar mistake that Steve Kloves made when adapting Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. They use flashbacks far too early in the film and destroy most of the mystery too soon. It was a mystery the book kept most of the story. More David Tennant screen time is never a bad thing, but in the fourth Harry Potter book the reader did not know that Barty Crouch Jr. was still alive until Harry found out after returning from the grave yard. In the screenplay, Steve Kloves made the revelation in the very first scene-at least they showed someone who was working with Voldemorte and shooting off the Dark Mark at the Quidditch cup. They also gave what JK Rowling would call “anvil sized hints” that Voldemort’s new buddy was possessing Mad Eye Moody. The mystery of why the boys are in the Glade isn’t exactly the same is the Barty Crouch Jr. situation, but the mystery of who they are and how they got there is mostly spoiled early on with the no so clever use of flash backs. The time the filmmakers wasted on those flashbacks could have been better spent on important scenes from the book that were cut.
The casting of the movie is pretty good, even if some of the actors don’t get to shine as much as they could because so many great moments from the book were cut. Dylan O’brien is good as Thomas, the hero who is determined to do something to improve his situation rather than just accept it. Kaya Scodelario does a good job playing Teresa, who had a mysterious connection to Thomas. A lot of her story is fundamentally changed from the book and she has a resemblance to another actress from another movie/book franchise that was marketing to teens and called itself a “saga” despite lacking any meaningful good vs evil conflict. That similarity should not be held against Ms Scodelario as she is a better actress. Emma Stone has certainly proven that she is no Lindsey Lohan clone, so there is hope for Kaya Scodelario. Thomas Sangster has always been a great actor, even when he was a child actor. His performance as Newt, the reluctant, yet competent leader (when the actual leader is put out of commission) shows that he can have a great career as an adult. He’s always has great facial expressions and this movie is no exception. Aml Ameen does a great job as Alby, the tough, sometimes extreme, sometimes reasonable leader of the Gladers. Several of Alby’s key scenes from the book were cut from the movie, which is a shame because Ameen could have been amazing in those scenes. Ki Hong Lee as Minho and Blake Cooper as Chuck, two of Thomas’ closest friends in the Glade also did quite well with what they had to work with. Will Poulter gave a chilling performance is the unstable Gally.
The setting and special effects were pretty good, even though a lot of things were fundamentally changed from the book, the elements that were in the movie were pretty impressive. The film doesn’t inspire the excitement of pre-ordering the DVD/Blu-ray combo pack on Amazon or making a special trip to the store the day it comes out, but it’s worth a DVD purchase or a digital download when the price is reduced.