Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) wakes up in a steel box as he moves up an elevator. He has no memory and is flying at full speed. When the box opens, Thomas finds several other teenagers. The leader of the group, Alby (Aml Ameen), gives Thomas a tour of their living space (known as the Glade) and tells him about what lies beyond the Glade: the Maze. Thomas is instructed by Alby to never enter the Maze if he wants to stay alive. However, several interesting things begin to occur after Thomas' arrival. First, one of the group's runners (people who search the maze for a way out) is killed in broad daylight. After that, Thomas ends up surviving a night in the maze with Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and they kill a Griever (evil creature that kills the teens) as well. Nobody has done either of those things before. Finally, a girl (Kaya Scodelario) shows up.
Eventually, Thomas begins a movement in the Glade and the teens start thinking that a way out is possible. Thomas, Minho and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) band up with the other Gladers to find an escape from their prison. However, they'll face fierce opposition from Gally (Will Poulter), a Glader who thrives on order. Chaos and big-budget action ensues.
If you didn't read the book, you'll probably find that synopsis to be incredibly confusing. There is a lot of exposition in this film. Director Wes Ball has to set up the complex universe in which these characters live, but he does it pretty seamlessly. The teens have their own slang language, and although it isn't used as pervasively as it is in the novel, it still is present. However, Ball doesn't give us a whole lesson in Glade language. He just immerses us in it and it works very well. But throughout this whole movie, I couldn't help but think that it was just setting up a much more interesting sequel. Although The Maze Runner is good in its own right, it's basically setting the table for two action-packed sci-fi sequels that will deliver the goods. The Maze Runner isn't a perfect movie, but it's good enough and it puts this franchise firmly on the map.
The characters truly carry this movie and most of the actors do a fabulous job with their portrayals. Teen girl heartthrob Dylan O'Brien is surprisingly solid as Thomas. O'Brien has to carry most of the film and does a good job. His character isn't perfect, but he's good. Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee are also incredibly likable as Newt and Minho, respectively. These are important characters for a good part of the franchise, so I'm glad that the producers picked good actors. Will Poulter manages to stand out as Gally, the closest thing there is to an antagonist in this film. He brings an anger and ferocity, but you manage to understand his character. It's a well-written part and Poulter does an excellent job. Aml Ameen also does a fine job as Alby, the group's leader and Kaya Scodelario tries her best with an underwritten part. All in all, the likable cast is one of the main reason's that this movie shines.
One of the things that I truly appreciated about The Maze Runner was the sci-fi aspect. Although many will inevitably compare this film to The Hunger Games, this is a more high-concept sci-fi disaster yarn than a story about a dystopian society. The freaky robot creatures and the technology make the film stand uniquely on its own and added to the intrigue of the film for me. I also enjoyed the score by John Paesano. It's big and overdramatic and a lot of fun.
Director Wes Ball and the three credited screenwriters do a pretty solid job of setting up this universe while preventing this film from moving at a glacial pace. Most of the characters are well-developed and while the plot is flimsy, it's serviceable for this film.
The worst thing I can say about this movie is that it is slow and not much actually happens. Most of these problems come from James Dashner's novel, but I still wish that Ball and the screenwriters could have tightened them up. Not much truly happens in The Maze Runner, but I feel like Ball could have made some of the events feel more significant. It just feels like stuff happening for most of the runtime. I can barely put it into words. The whole movie just felt oddly insignificant and anti-climatic.
In the end, The Maze Runner is a decent, enjoyable film that sets up two sequels that will likely be much more exciting and undoubtedly more emotionally involving. Wes Ball does a solid job of setting up all the characters and making you care about a few of them. They're oddly well-developed for a young adult film and that surprised me a lot. Despite its flaws, in many ways this is necessary viewing if you intend on seeing the sequels that will surely be much more polished.
THE FINAL GRADE: B (7/10)