From the moment the movie begins, with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) in a blind panic as the lift, grinding and groaning, carries him up towards the unknown, I knew The Maze Runner was going to kick some serious ass (my own included).
Director Wes Ball has taken all of the intensity of James Dashner’s novel and turned it up to eleven, while the cast, blazing with talent, adds considerable depth to the residents of the Glade. While hard core fans of the book might be disappointed with elements that stray from the original content, the result of those changes is a leaner, tighter story that keeps your heart racing for every single one of those hundred and thirteen minutes.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I consider this cast to be the strongest, overall, of any YA adaptation to date. O’Brien more than gets the job done as the bewildered everyman turned handsome hero, but it’s the supporting actors who really bring on the charisma. Will Poulter is absolute dynamite, injecting the character of Gally with some much-needed nuance, while Thomas Brodie-Sangster is a total charmer as Newt. (He has a line that begins with, “The truth is…,” that my brain immediately followed with, “I’m in love,” which is less of a statement on Thomas’ ability to transform into different characters and more a reflection of how many times I’ve watched Love Actually.) I was completely taken with Aml Ameen, who made Alby a magnetic, not to mention sexy, leader, and I had a tough time resisting the urge to reach towards the screen and ruffle Blake Cooper’s hair, because he was such a sweetie as Chuck. Kaya Scodelario arguably had the toughest job, given Teresa’s flimsy presence in the story, but she managed to project a level of grit far beyond that of a token female.
Now that I’ve gushed over the cast, let’s talk about the other vital character in this film: the maze. The maze!!!! Holy shizz, you guys. Wes Ball sure knows how to work a small budget, because the action in this film is HUGE. From the giant doors to the insanity of the “blades,” the maze looks and feels electrifyingly epic, and the Grievers, well, they’re just the terrifying icing on the cake. Seriously, these things are scary, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I jumped in my seat a few times.
More than any other YA adaptation (including The Hunger Games), The Maze Runner is a film that runs (no pun intended) on adrenaline–it’s a wham, bam, thank you ma’am thrill ride that, due to the actors, still has substance. While there’s only so much the screenwriters could do with the book’s rather clichéd ending, the film’s conclusion left me ravenous for the sequel, which is already in the works. Hopefully we don’t have to wait too long for its release, although I wouldn’t mind a few minutes to catch my breath.
After you’ve experienced the movie for yourself (because the only reason you wouldn’t see The Maze Runner is if you hate fun), come on back and let me know what you think! To keep this review spoiler free, I’m already heading to the comments to dish about how the film varies from the book. See you there, Gladers!
P.S. If you’re jonesing for some great behind-the-scenes scoop, check out the Q&A I moderated with James Dasher and Wes Ball.