Friday Film Review: “The Maze Runner”

You wake up on a freight elevator, hurtling upward through near-darkness. You don’t know who you are or how you got there, but as the doors open above you and blinding light pours in, you find yourself surrounded by a group of strangers, and you’re struck with a sudden urge to run.

Thus begins “The Maze Runner,” a film opening this weekend in wide release. It’s based on a series of young adult novels by James Dashner, and the film is “loosely” based on the first book. I haven’t read the book (yet), but based on this film, I’m definitely checking it out.

Here’s the set-up: The amnesiac protagonist is ushered into the world of “the Glade”–a large, semi-wooded hamlet surrounded on all sides by massive stone walls several stories high.  The inhabitants of the Glade are all boys ranging from pre-adolescent to older teens, who have set up a kind of communal society. They don’t know why they’re there, but they live in relative harmony. Their verdant prison has a giant door, which opens every day to allow access into a deadly and seemingly-limitless maze.

Some of the boys are tasked with running and mapping the maze to try to find escape, but they have to be back by sunset, when the doors close. Why? No one lives through the night in the maze.

There be monsters, ya see.

Once our nameless protagonist is deposited in the Glade, things start changing. The peaceful acceptance the “Gladers” have for their current situation is quickly disrupted. This new boy is driven by one thought: escape.

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I got to see a preview of this movie last week with the missus. We both really enjoyed it. It was intense and action-packed. For being a cast of mostly minors, it was rather well acted, on the whole. The set-up and payoff of certain plot-points was both familiar (if you’re verse in sci-fi/dystopian genre motifs) and still satisfying.

There’s also a really interesting subtext/theme about the idea of safety versus growth. You could easily make the “Glade-equals-childhood” analogy. Something fun to think through, there.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this movie, with a handful of caveats.

First, from a story perspective, this is based on the first volume in a multi-book series, so like the LOTR films, there’s a bit of a cliff-hanger ending. That said, you get some small resolutions along the way. So be ready for that. All questions will not be answered, or will be answered with more questions.

Second, from a content perspective, this film is PG-13 for action/violence, suspense, and language. The language was a bit jarring, often because it comes out of the mouth of children and teens. On the positive side, there’s no sexual content or even innuendos. Small favors, I guess. (If you want a more detailed content guide, check out Plugged In’s review.) So, I would say, you shouldn’t bring any kiddos to this, unless they’re older teens.

[Maybe down the road, if you could rent this on DVD/BR and use the “family-friendly editing” player to clear out the language, it would make the movie that much better for family viewing.]

That’s all I have for now. Have a great weekend, folks. See you on Monday!

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