When and why have teenage post-apocalyptic books and movies become so popular?

The Maze Runner is another movie in a long line marketed towards young white children. I’m about 10 or so years past the target demographic, but I’m known to enjoy the moving pictures and I’ll see nearly anything. With potential elements to make for an interesting sci-fi environment, The Maze Runner offered just enough promise in trailers to threaten to be an entertaining movie.

And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Dylan O’Brien plays the lead character, Thomas. I bought stock in O’Brien’s career immediately after watching him steal every scene in High Road. Without O’Brien’s performance in The Maze Runner, this movie would feel even more flat and wooden. Fortunately, Dylan O’Brien provides some dimension and gives the audience a reason to care about the story.

In the opening scene, Thomas wakes up in a moving elevator shaft that seemingly leads to nowhere.

However, the shaft opens to a mysterious world (called The Glade) and Thomas is greeted/surrounded by a sizeable group of strange young men. Thomas immediately does what any sane individual would do: run away as fast as possible. But you can’t really go far when you’re trapped in a maze.

That moment Thomas (who doesn’t remember his name) looks up and realizes he’s trapped behind giant walls with a group of strangers might just be the best moment of the movie.

The Glade

Basically, it’s Michael Jackson’s wet dream version of heaven. But it’s hell for the boys.

The first act of The Maze Runner is actually an impressive achievement. At the core of this movie is the mystery of how and why they are all there. No one remembers anything. But then Thomas starts recollecting bits and pieces. Getting bitten by a Griever (the mechanical monsters patrolling the maze) also brings back fading memories for the victim—if they can handle the painful bite.

The de facto alpha male in this group is Gally—played by Will Poulter, who was the best part of We’re The Millers. Second in command is Newt—played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, probably best known as Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones. For a fleeting moment, I had hope that this movie would touch on some themes similar to Lord of the Flies, but that angle never truly comes to fruition.

However, it is an interesting narrative setting up the second and third acts of The Maze Runner.

But then it all starts to fall to shit.

For the first time, a girl—Teresa, played by Kaya Scodelario—is brought into The Glade through the elevator shaft with a note that says she is the last one ever. That same night, the heavy doors that always close off The Glade from the maze don’t close like usual. As a result, the Grievers can enter The Glade at any time and attack everyone, which forces the group into the maze to try to find an exit.


A convenient escape hole is uncovered and some die, but the remaining survivors of the group get out. The ending is so fucking convoluted and fails to actually end the movie. Instead, the story is just carried over into the sequel. I cannot explain how frustrating and unsatisfying that is because it feels like you wasted nearly 2 hours of your time for the promise that there will be a resolution at the end of the next 2 hours.

As a stand-alone movie, the story arc of The Maze Runner doesn’t work.

It is only an experiment in empty promises…like McDonald’s.

Dylan O'Brien

2 out of 5 stars


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