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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Maze Runner movie review: a terrible feeling of deja vu

The Maze Runner yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Bland and generic beyond the small pleasures of its theme-park-ride-esque thrills and its half-intriguing, half-infuriating mystery.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The Lord of the Flies. Lost. The Hunger Games. Cube. The Truman Show. The Matrix. For starters. The list of — well, let’s be kind and call them “influences” — on the latest young-adult dystopian adventure is a litany of puzzle adventures-cum-existential mysteries, none of which The Maze Runner fares well up against. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien: The Internship) wakes up in a mysterious, if pleasantly verdant, Glade surrounded by a massive, constantly shifting maze of hundred-meter-high concrete walls. Like all the other teenaged boys there — including leader Gally (Will Poulter: Plastic) and his lieutenant, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster: Game of Thrones) — Thomas remembers nothing but his name: not why they have been imprisoned here, not who could have done this, nothing. Oh, and the maze is inhabited by something big and roaring that ensures that “no one survives a night in the maze.” The characters are the very definition of bland and generic, defined purely by their roles in the Glade — Thomas, as the New Guy and the Rebel, will dare to try to find a way to escape that the others haven’t yet thought of — and the dialogue consists mostly of tedious massive info dumps. Still, there are some small pleasures to be found in the theme-park-ride-esque thrills that comes from Thomas and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) running the maze while it shifts around them, and in the half-intriguing, half-infuriating mystery of what is going on… which has only deepened by the film’s end, all the better to whet your appetite for the 2015 sequel. The biggest mystery, and the one I fear will not have a satisfying explanation, is this: Why is it all boys in the Glade? Even the best in-context reason will have a hard time discounting the fact that pop culture does not require yet another tale of an all-male society, not that this one even makes any special use of its own. Unless the story’s point — what with the first girl ever, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario: Now Is Good), appearing in the Glade — is this: As if the world weren’t scary, unknowable, and full of monsters enough, then girls show up! *groan*

see also:
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials movie review: apocalyptic pile-on

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The Maze Runner (2014) | directed by Wes Ball
US/Can release: Sep 19 2014
UK/Ire release: Oct 10 2014

MPAA: rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
BBFC: rated 12A (intense scenes, threat, violence)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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