“The Maze Runner” an Action Sci-fi Chiller (Film Review)

MAZE RUN Poster 2


Dredging up some excitement for September the film The Maze Runner opens in theaters for its teen and young adult audiences comprised mostly of males. Based on a series of novels by James Dashner the science fiction actioner takes its target audience on a fast paced challenging mystery filled with action sequences that excite.  The film should help the box office take a turn for the better during this customarily slow month.

The film starts off with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) trapped in an elevator moving upward at a fast pace.  The caged transport comes to a halt and the doors open to wide eyed young men gazing at their newest member of a trapped colony. Totally blank about his past and not even knowing  his name Thomas gets a cold greeting by the occupants.  Lead by Alby (Aml Ameen) who’s all business, Thomas gets introduced around to the prime leaders. He’s in shock as he finds out that the young men are in the center of a huge maze with one thing in mind, getting out. While some are content on existing from day to day like Gally (Will Poulter) and his squad, the runners are hell bent on finding an exit to this walled up prison.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) finds himself in a strange world

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) finds himself in a strange world

Under first time director Wes Ball, a veteran of graphics and art (Check out his high velocity 8 minute film RUIN on YouTube at http://youtu.be/doteMqP6eSc), we get glimpses of the huge maze as the runners make attempts to find their way out.  He uses a good measure of CGI and green screen to show the enormity of the maze with its huge walls.  Ball then treats the audience to a menacing trip through the enormous puzzle adding elements of danger with moving facades, pits and insect shaped killers called Grievers.  The set is brilliant and the eye gets a visual treat much like  the apocalyptic destruction in the movie 2012 and the changing worlds of Inception.

Minho (Kai Hong Lee) and Thomas (O’Brien) look over a diorama of the maze

Minho (Kai Hong Lee) and Thomas (O’Brien) look over a diorama of the maze

The young cast gives the target audience a chance to visualize their age group as the colony goes through the chaotic daily routine of keeping safe the area in which they live. Leadership of the group goes to Alby the first of the 60 plus occupants to be marooned inside the maze (played by British actor Ami Ameen). The up and coming actor gave a good performance as young Cecil Gaines in Lee Daniel’s The Butler.  Here he’s a kind leader who protects his population and runs the maze looking for a way out.

Putting a lot of energy in the lead role of Thomas, Dylan O’Brien shows his acting ability with determination and guts.  His Thomas is head strong and resists the bullying from a group of objectors. He wants his chance to run the maze and find the outlet that will free him and his fellow captives. Opposition from those who want control of the colony however, are a barrier he must take down. A very likely teen heart throb, O’Brien’s followers should gather to see his performance in The Maze Runner. Better known for his role as Stiles Stilinski in the three year running MTV show “Teen Wolf”, this outing should give him a shot at another episode if the 4th book of Maze Runner series gets a green light for a sequel.

Computer graphics are a large part of The Maze Runner

Computer graphics are a large part of The Maze Runner

Remarkable computer graphics, fine acting by the whole cast, and able direction, combine to deliver this nicely woven adventure for young adults.  However, the weakness comes with the final chapter.  Although the terror gets elevated toward the finale, the insertion of one lone female (Teresa played by Kaya Scodelario) and the final squad’s attempt to escape are somewhat of a letdown.  With a strong showing at the box office the next book called “The Scorch Trials” should get green lighted for a sequel as you’ll see with the obvious ending, and that may be why the finale is summed up so quickly. One last word on the subject of letdown; it’s good to see Patricia Clarkson up on the big screen but her cameo role was not something to brag about.  Quick and no more than a name dropping walk-on, her character wasn’t fleshed out enough to make her role important.

Thomas (O'Brien)  tries to calm down Teresa (Kaya Scodelario)

Thomas (O’Brien) tries to calm down Teresa (Kaya Scodelario)

The Maze Runner has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images.  If your pre-teen is a gamer he may make a case for your permission to see the film, but it would be prudent if an adult figure were to be present.

WRITER’S NOTE: James Dashner has written 16 books for teens with “The Maze Runner” making the Best Seller list for a full year.  Other novels in “The Maze Runner” series include “The Scorch Trials”, “The Death Cure” and “The Kill Order”.  All four books are available in bookstores or on line.  If the next three get the go ahead and filmed with big budgets like this one, then they should have the same momentum as “The Twilight Saga”.

FINAL ANALYSIS: The adventure and mystery put this new release on a road to plenty. (B-)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Dexter Darden, Patricia Clarkson
Directed by: Wes Ball
Novel Written By: James Dashner
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Mystery
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Running Time: 1 hr 53 min
Release Date: September 19, 2014
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Formats: 2D

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