The 400-Word-Review: The Maze Runner

By Sean Collier

September 23, 2014

If this reminds you intensely of The Hunger Games, well, that's the point.

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Can the Hunger Games formula work without, you know, the substance? The Maze Runner is here to emphatically say… kinda!

Based on a novel by James Dashner, The Maze Runner throws young Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) in a metal box, which in turn spits him out into a mysterious clearing. He’s surrounded by a group of exclusively male teens, who eventually explain the limited rules: they don’t know who they are, they don’t know why they’re there, they’re surrounded by a deadly maze, they haven’t found a way out.

Thomas, because he’s the protagonist, stirs the pot, bugging the de facto leader (Aml Ameen) for answers and defying the token heavy (Will Poulter). See, he’s not supposed to go into the maze. (Want to guess how long that lasts?) When more kids start dying than usual and — gasp! — the metal box produces a female (Kaya Scodelario), the boys begin to suspect that Thomas was a harbinger of disaster.

Some aspects of the premise are fine; the maze structure provides a nice source of, and motive for, action, the mystery drives the plot and the lack of parental (or female) involvement lends a Lord of the Flies element to the formula. Maze Runner’s reveals give up the game: there’s very, very little to all of this, which makes me deeply fear the upcoming sequels. But for an introduction, the suspense holds the film together.

Artistry, on the other hand, may be too much to ask. Director Wes Ball has spent most of his career working in visual effects and the art department, and it shows; he can cobble together a convincing CGI spider, but films people like they’re also CGI spiders. The central area in the middle of the maze, referred to as “the glade,” is so closely reminiscent of the Hunger Games set that I was surprised they didn’t use any of the same props. As for the acting, let’s just say that there are no future Jennifer Lawrences among this cast, though Thomas Brodie-Sangster is charming as second-string leader Newt.


With Katniss and co. making money hand over fist, we’re in for more imitators after this one. (It should be noted that the novel preceded The Hunger Games — which doesn’t prevent the adaptation from being a clear ripoff.) The Maze Runner is like a lot of hanger-on franchises: The feel is there, hollow though it may be.

My Rating: 6/10



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