If you take the best parts of “The Hunger Games,” “Lord of the Flies,” and “Divergent,” mix them together and set them aside, what you have left over is “The Maze Runner.”
Based on the novel by James Dashner, “The Maze Runner” tells the story of a group of young men who are mysteriously thrown together in a beautiful forest glade with no way out except through the mysterious maze. The boys have no idea how they got in the maze or why they are there and have arrived with no memory of who they are, where they’re from, etc.
Nevertheless, they somehow manage to form a functioning society that enables their peaceful co-existence. But this harmony only lasts until Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien) and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) arrive.
Thomas’ arrival isn’t out of the ordinary as someone new has shown up once a month for the past three years.
But when Teresa shows up, things go awry. Her presence signifies something ominous for life in the glade and there are three distinct reasons for this: One, she shows up only a few days after Thomas, not the normal month; two, she’s the first girl to ever show up; and three, she knows Thomas’s name. This is the perfect set-up for an awesome adventure movie. Unfortunately, this is as good as it gets.
Despite good performances by the ensemble cast, the screenplay by Noah Oppenheim and Grant Pierce Myers fails to structure the story in a way that makes sense. We are left with a lot of gaps in the exposition, which is normally dispersed throughout the course of the film and saves it all until the climax.
For movies like this, shrouded in a cloud of mystery, withholding pertinent information about what put the characters in this position typically works. But for “The Maze Runner,” the final reveal creates far more questions than it answers.
Not only does the screenplay fail to provide the necessary exposition, it completely ignores the fact that a solitary girl is now among a group of young, hormone-fueled boys. Not one character raises a question about the sudden appearance of an individual missing a Y-chromosome nor do any of the characters look at her with anything that suggests their society is not androgynous.
This is not to say that Teresa should have been objectified by any means, but it does not seem plausible that a group of teenage boys do not notice the unprecedented arrival of a female. More importantly, the screenplay missed a huge opportunity for dramatic tension and character development.
What makes this screenplay deficiency so bad is that the performances are so good. Each of the actors brings a genuineness and like-ability that makes you want them to successfully escape. They are so easy to love that the audience even loves the antagonist.
In addition to the wonderful acting, the film is shot in an exquisite manner. The location of the glade itself is reminiscent of the beauty of “Lord of the Rings” Middle Earth sans mountains. Even the corridors of the maze have a hauntingly beautiful aesthetic.
Sadly, none of these wonderful cinematic achievements can overcome the atrocity that is the screenplay.
All in all, “The Maze Runner” starts off like a competitive relay race with the baton being passed successfully from runner to runner until the anchor stops running just before crossing the finish line.
Verdict: Not so a “maze” ing…