The latest young adult dystopian film, The Maze Runner, hit British cinemas earlier this month. Adding to this currently thriving genre, the Wes Ball directed American action-heavy adaptation of James Dashner’s 2009 novel of the same name has been mostly hailed a success by critics and has proved popular with audiences.
Starring Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf), Kaya Scodelario (Skins), Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee and Will Poulter, The Maze Runner dramatically begins with Thomas, played by O’Brien, with no memory of who he is, waking up in an elevator which delivers him to a place known as “the Glade” in the centre of a massive maze, with a group of other boys.
The mystery grows; none of them know why they have been put there,or why every month a new boy arrives from the elevator. The strongest of the boys act as the ‘maze runners,’and attempt to find a way out of the ever-shifting maze. They must return to the Glade by nightfall, however,because no one has ever survived a night in the maze. At the same time,the boys all attempt to coexist and survive, creating a functioning society in the Glade. Piecing together his strange dreams about the enigmatic organisation W.C.K.D, and clues he finds in the maze, with the help of Teresa, the only girl sent up by the elevator, Thomas must discover his true purpose in order to escape.
With a strong emphasis on action, the film has audiences on the edge of their seats throughout its thrilling scenes, yet retains depth with its dark senses of mystery and unease throughout. The characters are compellingly portrayed, and the subtle Lord of the Flies-esque power struggle among the boys provides a poignant social message. Although audiences have allegedly complained at Ball’s failure to follow the book directly,this has not necessarily impinged on its success. According to Seattle Times’ Soren Anderson, the film is “vastly superior to the book that inspired it.”
Equally, despite its resemblances to other recent teenage dystopian plot lines such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, critics see it as superseding the cliché and being better than most young adult book-to-film adaptations. It has been praised for its strong performances, intriguing premise, visuals, and dark tone. Nevertheless, there were some critics that disagreed with the aforementioned praise. Claudia Puig of USA Today claimed it “felt only partially formed.” There is also a distinct lack of clarity towards the end of the film, when the reason for them being in the maze in the first place is revealed, leaving a number of unanswered, or poorly answered, questions. As Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer states,“the film’ ending becomes somewhat nonsensical.”
From a feminist perspective, given that there are only two female characters and these are given limited development, the film could be criticised for gender bias, a problem not found in The Hunger Games. However, in spite of its various limitations, The Maze Runner definitely fulfils its role as a teen blockbuster, with sufficient excitement and aesthetic pleasure to be worth watching. Its worldwide gross figure of $4.7 million shows its undeniable popularity.
Audiences can hope that the rest of the series Can clear some of the “maze” confusion left by the first film’s ending. The adaptation of Dashner’s sequel, The Scorch Trials, with cast members reprising their roles, reportedly will be released on September 18th 2015.