D&D Mixed Reviews: Maze Runner

Maze Runner is owned by 20th Century Fox.

Maze Runner is owned by 20th Century Fox.

It’s time for another D&D Mixed Review. As usual this review will feature myself (Derek) and Denis discussing the film on four different subjects; Plot, Performances, Production and Overall Quality.  The review will then end with a score of either SEE IN THEATRE, WAIT FOR RENTAL or PASS.

This weeks film is Maze Runner, yet another film based upon a young adult novel. So let’s jump, or rather run, right in. (Dear god) Spoilers BTW!

First a brief overview of the plot.

Maze Runner follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) a newbie to the Glade, a grassy clearing inside of a giant maze. He soon meets the other boys; their leader Alby (Aml Ameen) Newt (Thomas Sangster), Minho (Ki-hong Lee), Gally (Will Pulter) and Chuck (Black Cooper) among the others forced into the giant prison.

As the film progresses Thomas starts to question why the group is there and what is behind the world they’re trapped in. Shortly after asking these questions things start going bad. Thomas wants to become a runner, a explorer of the maze, to find a way out. Along the way he soon sees the Grievers, giant monsters who kill the boys if they come into contact with them.

After a series of bad events a new recruit is brought to the maze, this time a girl named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario). The group try to explore the grounds and find away out of the maze.

But is there really anything outside of the prison? If so, is it worse than the maze they’re leaving?

PLOT:

Don’t get me wrong, the concept of Maze Runner is solid. The idea of a maze that holds people in for some unknown reason is interesting, but the film ends up putting forth a paint by numbers plot that does little to move past your first ideas of the plot. Making it worse is the dialogue which leaves a lot to be desired. But the real problem are the lacklustre characters. Short of first names, and even then, little is given to these characters to make them stand out. Sure Alby is the leader, but so is Newt and Gally. No one really seems important other than Thomas due to him being our main and POV character. This film is a lame duck all around in the plot department.

The general plot isn’t extremely flawed, a group of kids are stuck in an elaborate maze without any understanding of it’s purpose or why they’re even there. Solid. But that concept is dragged down by boring characters that have absolutely no depth to them at all. They fill generic roles in the camp, and speak either expository dialogue or just crap. There’s nothing about any of these characters that made me care about them, not a damn thing. Also while I’m in the plot category lets get into one spoiler that pissed me right off. It’s revealed later that these kids are genetically resilient to a virus, and all but one of these kids are male. So the genetically resilient parts of the human race are just fricken dudes. That is some subtle but profoundly sexist shit. 

PERFORMANCE:

While I could just say that the script gave the actors little to work with, that wouldn’t be a good excuse for the film. The characters are flat and two demential to the point of almost blending into the background. The only one who really stood out of the bunch was Thomas Sangster but more for his work on Game of Thrones. There were way to many moments when I wanted Sangster to some Warg stuff to at least keep my interest in what was happening.

Since the script left nothing in the way of characterization our band of solid actors had nothing to work with, so I can’t really say they were bad. What I found quite frustrating about this film and it’s characters was a lack of humour or broad characters. The fact that these kids are stuck together and probably struggle with being in the maze could have developed characters with a great sarcastic sense of humour. Or the one strange guy in the camp who talks to himself. Guardians of the Galaxy showed just how important comedy is to entertain and connect the audience with the characters. Why would you want to hang out with someone that can’t crack a joke or make light of a shitty situation? If someone like that isn’t in our band of maze livers, then why would I connect with one of them?

PRODUCTION:

One of the few positives of the film have to be it’s production values. The film was made with a small budget, compared to other films in the similar genre, and used it well. The Griever creatures are an interesting combination of machine and monster and they’re not shown enough to look cheap. That being said the film direction was mostly flat. While a IMDb search of director Wes Ball’s work would show his inexperience shooting a major film, there are moments that impress, such as use limited use of crane shots and GoPro cameras. Sadly, these moments are few and fair between and the film does little to impress.

The film felt like a modern summer movie, the effects were well done, the production design work was solid, and the music served it purpose. I was disappointed by the lack of any interesting direction, especially when the movie is filled with expository dialogue about how things run. As the saying goes, “show don’t tell”. This movie was filled with telling and hardly any showing. I would’ve liked more effective visual storytelling, but hey, maybe that’s asking a lot of an adaptation of a young adult novel.

OVERALL:

I went into Maze Runner with no real expectations. It’s a film from a director and author I knew nothing about, but what we get is a cool concept that isn’t used well at all. It feels long, flat and boring. I’ll keep this short and sweet this one isn’t worth your time. PASS

I understand why this movie was made, it was made to cash in on the popularity of a book. But that doesn’t mean you can dodge character development, compelling direction, or emotional storytelling. I demand more from my entertainment, I wanted to like this movie and I can so clearly see how to fix it. And if I can see those things, why didn’t the producers see it? I would like to say pass on this movie, but seeing how our showing was filled to the brim with teens, I have a hard time believing that most of the film going public won’t throw money down on a film that fails to reach it’s potential. PASS

Maze Runner is a film based upon a novel by James Dashner and was directed by Wes Ball. The film was produced by Gotham Group and Temple Hill Entertainment. Distribution was handled by 20th Century Fox.

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