The Maze Runner is Hook meets Jurassic Park, with the philosophical approach of The Matrix, and absolutely does not deserve any of those comparisons. It’s entertaining on a sometimes laughably meager budget and somehow is better than The Hunger Games without being a great movie. It’s as if Saw took place on Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, where they happened to be filming a robot sequel to Eight Legged Freaks. Like you’re probably wondering, I can’t tell whether I liked it either. But I will say one thing: The Maze Runner is worth seeing if you feel like a mindless trip to the theater.
In case you run to the bathroom during the one of the several blatant exposition scenes, it goes like this: each month, a new teenage male wakes up in an elevating cage, in the dark, with no recollection of how he got there. He’s scared, confused, and cannot remember his name. The cage, or “the box” as it’s referred to, opens up in the middle of a large field, where several other boys are surrounding The Man With No Name, asking him questions and pulling him in several directions. They explain to the new recruit that they all were brought there with no memory, don’t know why they’re there, or how to escape. What they do know is that every morning, the gates to this large quad open up to a surrounding maze which changes its pattern every night. As if that weren’t enough to stump them, the maze is plagued by large robotic scorpions come sunset. No one has survived a night in the maze in the three years that they’ve been there. To maintain order and sanity during their perplexing circumstances, the young men construct huts, sleep in hammocks, and create a rank-ordered community they can call home. But the newest recruit/victim, Thomas, is built differently. He’s curious. And he is determined find a way out and lead this group to safety.
Cool premise, right? Unfortunately, the extremely compelling ideas that are implicit in set-up are never explored further than the village doctor being asked for a diagnosis and his response being, “hey man… I got my job the same way you did.” This is very unfortunate, as the existential “deserted island” story is one that I find interesting no matter how many times it’s told. Instead, it opts for actors in their mid-twenties playing teens, running in front of a green screen as CGI walls shift behind CGI monsters giving chase. And the longer you watch, the more the plot holes become glaring. *cough* umm, guys? If you had all these trees to build huts, why didn’t you just build a big ass ladder?! *cough*
While I haven’t read the book, I’d imagine it is better. The Maze Runner as a movie (franchise) will absolutely be profitable, and it’s first entry wasn’t shabby. Just keep your expectations low, even as you are absolutely enthralled by the first half hour.
The Maze Runner opens today in Philly area theaters.