The Maze Runner (2014)
July 21, 2015 11:01 PM - Subscribe

Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they're all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow "runners" for a shot at escape.

From Robbie Collins' review at The Telegraph:
"There are superficial hints of Lord of the Flies here, but the real villain is the maze itself. It compels the boys to either participate in the system on the system’s own terms, or else be like Gally and his gang, and sit things out entirely. Change isn’t an option on the table; it’s something that has to be fought for. It’s a premise that seems likely to strike a chord.

"The first-time director, Wes Ball, is a visual effects artist by trade, but he makes good on the plot’s wildly intriguing, if totally artificial, premise. In much the same cryptic style as the television series Lost, the film lays a perfectly spaced breadcrumb-trail of clues – a strange slogan on a crate here, a stranger sequence of numbers there – though unlike Lost, everything ties up more or less coherently, with a heavy side-order of sequel-teasing."
Christy Lemire laments the ending, but generally gives a good review, at
"And what’s intriguing about “The Maze Runner”–for a long time, at least–is the way it tells us a story we think we’ve heard countless times before but with a refreshingly different tone and degree of detail. Ball, whose background is in visual effects, doesn’t overload his feature debut with a lot of glossy, high-tech imagery. Not for a while, anyway. Much of the film’s charm comes from its rough-hewn aesthetic–a tactile nature that’s both industrial and organic–and the way it takes its time vividly establishing an environment.

"When Thomas eventually does enter the maze–no spoiler there, folks, it’s in the title–it produces some moments that are truly harrowing and filled with non-stop, near-death peril. (This is a super-violent PG-13, but then again, the young readers who are the target for these books know what’s in store for them.) The beasts who dwell there are incessant, ravenous and very, very fast. I won’t divulge what they are, but I’ll only say that they’re extremely cool looking and scary as hell."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, yet another postapocalyptic YA story.

Could not stand this movie, and the only positive thing I can say about it is I didn't spend money to see it in a theater. The entire film was predictable from beginning to end, and its whole raison d'etre was apparently to set up a forthcoming sequel. Through a lame, rushed ending that felt like it had been tacked on at the last minute.

Wooden acting. Monodimensional characters. Mostly monosyllabic dialogue that would have been better suited to a video game. Plot is a rehash of every prison/puzzle escape ever made, dating back to The Prisoner. The entire movie was a non-stop cliffhanger -- which sounds great on paper but really, really wasn't -- that left little time for character development. Or their backstories. There's pretty much zero incentive offered to give a damn about the characters at all.

It had far too many flaws for a movie that took itself so seriously.
posted by zarq at 5:48 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love you so much, Dylan O'Brien
posted by Kitteh at 6:35 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think this is currently on concast/xfinity free ppv.
posted by sammyo at 8:03 AM on July 22, 2015

I haven't seen this movie yet but I expect that this SNL sketch is a sufficient precis of the plot.
posted by phunniemee at 8:11 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love Dylan O'Brien to ridiculous extremes, but this was a bad movie based on a terrible book in a frankly terrible trilogy. I could rant for days about the awfulness of those books, each one worse than the last. They're so bad they make me angry on behalf of literature.

I think O'Brien elevated this wreck of a movie far higher than it deserved. I'm thrilled he got a starring role in a widely-released film that critics liked, and I hope that happens again, because I think he's a really solid actor with the potential to be a really great actor.

But the world will spin cheerfully on if this film sinks without a whimper and is never seen or heard from again.
posted by kythuen at 10:35 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

The sequel comes out in September.

Like Divergent, I Am Number Four, and a few others, this is one of those "potentially cool premise/disappointing story/idiotic conclusion" series that seems to be in favour right now. I keep hoping the movies will correct some of the worst book elements (like Harry Potter bloat or antagonist justification in Hunger Games), but this is one where it just doesn't happen.

Maze Runner had an interesting premise (the maze obviously being a test - but who's testing them and why?), but the characters are interchangeably forgettable. And when you do learn the reason, it makes no sense. There would be a dozen different ways to achieve the desired result and leaving far less to chance, so why would "they" go through that expense on a Hail Mary?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed this a whole lot more than I expected to. No, there's not an original bone in its body; but it assembles its borrowed pieces together in an entertaining way.

That "aaaand SURPRISE here's the sequel" ending, though, felt both rushed and unearned.

Like both the quoted reviewers, I got a very strong Lord of the Flies vibe from the first half. All boys (and why were they all boys?); pointed sticks; someone's going to end up becoming a sacrifice.

Things it had clearly borrowed, a partial list
  • maze that rearranges itself: Cube
  • running through mazy corridors chased by skittering creatures: Alien 3
  • hypodermic to the chest providing immediate relief: Pulp Fiction
  • biomechanical creatures plucking people out of basements: the Spielberg War of the Worlds
  • anachronistic EXIT door from huge constructed world: The Truman Show
  • manipulative backstage bureaucracy revealed: Cabin in the Woods
Also, I spent fully half the movie trying to place where I'd seen the delicate-featured second-in-command before before finally realizing "oh yeah, Jojen Reed."
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:03 PM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I knew nothing about these books. But my nine-year-old son had read them all, loved them, and when the movie came out, the whole family went to see it. My wife was like, "I know it's not your favorite, but he really wants to go."

So, we go, and I like the effects and everything ... and it's way more overtly violent than I expected ... but OK, my son read the books, he's fine.

And then Chuck gets killed. And despite knowing this would happen, my son bursts into tears.

I look at my wife. "So, what's next on the double feature? Bambi? Old Yeller? Maybe My Girl, so we can watch Macaulay Culkin get killed by a swarm of bees?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:08 PM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't care if it was derivative or had some stiff acting, I had an absolute ball watching this movie! And there's a sequel? YES PLEASE.

Things I loved about it: the maze (of course), the cool little maze model they made, the "Lord of the Flies" feel, the 'we have each other and that's more important than everything' theme, the flashbacks to the lab (distorted view worked very well in creating a creepy and surreal memory), the SCIENTISTS! so evil, the monumental walls they were surrounded by contrasted with the beautiful nature within the square, that little kid (I called his sacrifice early on - I'm unreasonably proud of this), and the direction. Never heard of Wes Ball before so he's on my radar - I thought he did an admirable job here.

And they used the maze's architecture very well here, I think, in the action sequences (*splat!*). Great tension in this movie and some superbly enjoyable action sequences.

Oh, and lastly - the Grievers, which I misheard and understood to be 'Greibers' for the majority of the film. Alas, I like my word better.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 2:18 PM on July 22, 2015

This was also just added to HBOGo if you're on that ride.

I thought it was really good for the first 3/4. Once they escape, everything kinda falls apart for me though. I really wasn't into the whole Wicked is Good government whatever, especially with that leader's fake suicide. The effects were better than I expected, but the creature design didn't seem that special.

I'll probably go check out the sequel when it comes out.
posted by dogwalker at 8:25 AM on July 23, 2015

So.....they are rescued in the end by good guys in helicopters, and as they are flying away we can see into the glade from the air. why then didn't the good guys just chopper into the glade and rescue them a day earlier????
and please don't say it's because they had to complete the maze to achieve the next level, becasue really, what did they do to master the maze? got lucky by crushing a griever and getting it's robot exit opener? not exactly a skill that's useful anywhere else.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:32 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

OHenryPacey, stay as far away from the sequels as humanly possible. Trust me on this.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:02 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Haven't read the books, but:

really, what did they do to master the maze?got lucky by crushing a griever and getting it's robot exit opener? not exactly a skill that's useful anywhere else.

It seemed to me there was a whole "willing to think outside the box" thing going on with Thomas: that they've been exploring the maze for four years and got nowhere -- and in fact the runners have given up on finding an exit -- and that they're stuck in a mindset of simply accepting the situation as it is. And then he arrives to challenge the orthodoxy and kills a griever: something that they hadn't even considered possible.

I think this is fairly explicitly stated in the arguments between Gally and Thomas -- and Gally feels very threatened by it because it's Sure To Lead To Trouble. Which to be fair it does.

So, not so much that the group got lucky -- more that they finally got the right leader to find a solution to the maze. And maybe there are many possible solutions of which this is one; the point is to find someone who is not complacent about The Way Things Are.

(I may be overthinking this silly movie but hey.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:12 PM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I did not understand why they ran. At first I thought it was because there was traps all over. Nope. Then I thought maybe because they didn't have enough time to explore before dark or that it constantly changed. Nope & nope. Completely mapped the place so it doesn't really change, and it sure didn't seem to be a case of taking six hours to get to the outer edges. Grievers apparently didn't come out 'til after dark, at least until "the one" shows up, so really just don't fart around in the maze until after dark, or doors close, would've - should've - been an early lesson. Getting stung should've been a foreign concept, since nobody lasts the night inside. Besides, what were the Grievers purpose? Kill? Kidnap? Sting? Eat? Turn people into zombies? We find out later they don't have problems scaling walls, so nobody would've lasted more than a day from the get, doors or no. They apparently could get/make rope/vines that can hold a full grown man's weight, and they could also fully scale the walls. So why again were they trapped inside? What was up with we're never leaving paradise kid? Dude was kind of a bully which would surely have made him an outsider considering the ethos of unity that they lived by.

It really isn't that hard to put a cogent story together. Yes, even serialized ones. Maybe the book(s) fills in some details?
posted by P.o.B. at 4:31 AM on August 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

I just watched this on Netflix and thought it was pretty forgettable. The maze wasn't really presented as much of a challenge, and ultimately it, like most of the plot, seemed totally arbitrary.

I liked the Toast's review: "The problem with The Maze Runner is that people don’t act like people in it ... You’re telling me that a society run by desperate, unsupervised teen males wouldn’t have, at the very least, a jerkoff hut?"
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:05 PM on September 9, 2015

Man. I'm coming late to this one, and while I didn't hate this movie, it did seem like it really squandered a lot of opportunities. You can point to all sorts of issues with the plot and the motivations, but I think more than anything it's the pacing that kills it. Nothing in the movie is ever allowed to sit long enough to gain any weight.

Thomas shows up, freaks out, and is put into lock-up for protection ... and then gets let out literally a minute later. I swear to god, the guy who locked him up probably nodded 'hi' to the guy who let him out as they passed, just moments from the cell. What the movie desperately needed to happen instead was: Thomas spends maybe 24 hours there, for his own safety. He looks out from behind the bars and we get a sense for the community, both the strangeness but also the togetherness. He's freaked out, but eventually comes through it, and then after a day in lock-up he's given the tour. But nope, we just get: into the cell, wait, no, out of the cell.

This problem permeates the whole film. Thomas goes into the maze and immediately solves the problem of the Grievers. Thomas becomes a runner but hey, we already solved the maze (from looking at write-up on the book, it sounds like this is super-condensed from what was in the book, and Thomas was involved in the solution much more). I mean, there's seriously a point where Gally berates Thomas by saying he's been there just three days, and that sounds like hyperbole ("Dude, you've been here like three days!"), but I think it isn't even supposed to be that -- he really has only been there three days!

All it would have taken is some montage-like footage, a few acknowledged time jumps here and there, and so much would have been improved. Give more time for Gally to come to distrust Thomas. Give more time for Chuck to become Thomas' friend. Give more time for Alby to come to believe that Thomas can help them. Just ... give the story some time to actually build relationships between the characters. Even with the supposed 30 day gap between new arrivals, they could have given plenty of time to really learn who these kids are and come to care about them. Instead, they ended up as largely forgettable cannon fodder.

The sequel to this is out, and I have to say, not sure I have any interest in it. Maybe when it hits HBO Go or similar. Even putting aside the moustache-twirling super-conspiracy with the director who killed herself but oh that was a ruse (why?), more than anything the first movie just seemed to want to rush through the plot points so fast that there was no way anyone was going to really care all that much.
posted by tocts at 4:34 PM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Has anyone read the books and can provide some context? I feel like that's what this movie, and maybe the trilogy, is missing.

- The first thing that bugged me was all the boys giving Thomas shit about the maze even though no one has explained anything. They were just basically calling him a stupid Greenie but only Alby has said "don't go past the wall". It would've take less than five minutes right after those "rules" to be like "It's a maze in there, it changes every night so it's difficult to map out, and every dusk the doors close and we hear these monster things that apparently come out and kill whoever is in there. So unless you're super fast like those guys, don't go in." Instead we get 20 minutes of Thomas being all confused about what the hell is going on. Even permitting the "boys will be boys" bullshit, Alby didn't seem like that, and he could've said all that.
- Yeah, why the hell does anyone give Gally the time of day if he treats people like shit in this supposed "community of unity"? And apparently he fights off at least 3 Grievers, crushes one to get a key to follow them into the lab? All the while having been stabbed??
- Whyyyyyyyy would you not pick up a gun when you pass a body with it, seeing the current scene, and knowing enough what it is to kick it away from a body? WTH Minho?
- I can't recall if Therese contributed to the escape at all, aside from pulling Chuck up when he grabbed the falling the cylinder key (also, why would you give a key to obviously the slowest of the group?). And I can understand maaaaybe the scientists wanted to put her in the test because she has the same skills that Thomas has, and the same resistance to the virus, but she was just such a token "tough" female that it left a bad taste in my mouth.

I can already see what the sequels will be about: The things that they're getting stung with is that virus that's destroying brains, and they're the first generation that can withstand it long enough to be cured with that serum they developed. I guess they needed the maze and the glades to figure out which kid was suited for which task in the post-apocalyptic world? So the "Scorch Trial" will be to figure out who can survive a scorched Earth. And then in "Death Cure" they finally figure out a vaccine to the virus. All of which, of course, will involve more running and bravery and the evil scientist lady gets her comeuppance by dying of said virus.

Oh yeah, according to IMDB, "Thomas Brodie-Sangster [(Newt)] stated in an interview that the maze would have been easily solved if the Gladers had simply bothered to construct a ladder."

If I ever end up watching the sequel it would only be if someone else wants to and I get sufficiently drunk for it.
posted by numaner at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2016

« Older Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries...   |  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ru... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments