Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter
Rating: Two stars
The Maze Runner, the first film in the series of the same name, is the latest in the young adult fantasy category; a genre that is increasingly gaining traction. With a rather straightforward plot line, The Maze Runner works because it makes no attempt to deviate from the formulaic existence of the genre. Therein, however, lies its downfall. After a point there is a sense of “ho-hum, let’s move on”, and sadly, one doesn’t.
The film begins with 16-year-old Thomas (O’Brien) waking up in an elevator to find that he is on an island and has absolutely no recollection of how he got there. And with it dawns the realisation that there are two dozen more such boys who have ended up in a place that seems like a post-apocalyptic world without the slightest clue of what led to their situation. The boys have weird visions about an organisation called WCKD but besides that there’s little to aid them in escaping from the island. Beyond the borders of the island lies a notorious maze that has swallowed many a young boy who was plotting an escape. As their luck would have it though, the maze holds the key to an escape strategy and requires one to work through it to find a way out for the rest of the boys. Young Thomas, couples slivers of his past with the clues from the maze to put their predicament in some perspective that’ll then help him and his band of boys escape from there.
Somewhere, half way through the film, arrives Theresa, the only girl on the island, who too has no memory of her past. This despite the fact that she utters Thomas’ name hazily. She instantly seems to bond with Thomas, something that the audience will naturally expect of her. Beyond that, the film follows the usual Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies meets Twilight path of a dystopian world that young adults find themselves in and how they make sense of it.
The film has its moments: some designed to terrify, some others to provoke thought but there is this overbearing feeling of sameness that one can’t seem to shake off much after the film is over. It works as a standalone despite its contrived ending that hints at the sequel. This year alone has seen a bunch of films following similar lines so The Maze Runner sadly has to go much beyond to really stand out. What worked for Hunger Games and even Twilight for that matter is that they had no predecessors to set the tone for their genre. Coming close on the heels of another bland young adult flick The Giver, The Maze Runner while being more gripping, doesn’t lose grip of predictability.
The actors are limited in talent though one presumes the sequels will better etch out their characters. O’Brien as Thomas is convincing and the rawness of his age both in the film and in real life, has been well channelised to deliver the role of the accidental protagonist. Scodelario has little to offer as Theresa, though that’s not really her fault if she’s given minuscule presence. Brodie-Sangster (Newt), that charming li’l boy from Love Actually reminds you that he has grown up but hasn’t lost his smile. Besides that, he delivers is a deeply restricted role.
Besides that the film trudges along and leaves one feeling a deep sense of disappointment for having invested time in a flick that is neither entirely entertaining nor pathbreaking. Recommended only if you have absolutely nothing else to do....