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He Said, She Said Review Site

The Maze Runner

What She said:


It's hard to admit this, but I have a serious soft spot for young adult fiction--that spans book form, TV, and film. I like that whole genre because it's easy. Simple non-adult problems--mostly just boy-drama--and no storylines that revolve around paying bills. So yeah, it's one of my little indulgences.

The Maze Runner is one of those young-adult franchise phenoms, based on a book of the same name. The movie introduces us to this futuristic science-fiction dystopian world and opens with this teenaged boy Thomas riding up a darkened elevator to an unknown place. When the elevator opens, Thomas sees that he is walled into this field area, trapped with a bunch of other teenaged boys. The only way out appears to be through an adjoining maze.

The Maze Runner

Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself here. It's important to note that when Thomas wakes up on the elevator and first joins the other boys, he has no memory of who he is or how he got there. The other boys assure him that he should remember his name within a day or two, and alas, they are correct. But Thomas can honestly not remember anything else. However, he has nightmare flashbacks that begin to shed some light on who he is and what is going on. It's very piecemeal though for both Thomas and the viewer, which makes this film a little difficult to follow, at least initially.

A few things are clear: These boys are trapped and with few options for getting out; Alby is the leader, the original in the Glades (that's what they call it) and "the wise one"; Gally is the bad guy amongst the boys; and they're not alone in the Glades--there are these terrifying spider things called Grievers who are trained to kill.

The boys have a small group called the Maze Runners, who do exactly what their name implies--they run around the maze mapping it and looking for a way out. Unfortunately, the maze changes daily and so getting familiar with it is a daunting task. In addition, the Grievers hang out in there, and the maze closes its doors each night, trapping anyone foolish enough to lose track of time in there where they will meet certain death.

Thomas may be the last one in to the Glades, but he wants to be the first one out. He becomes involved as a Maze Runner and holds the distinction of being the first among the boys to actually kill a Griever. He and the lead Runner Minho think that they have found a way out of the maze and the Glades, but the stakes are heightened as the door to the maze remains open and the Grievers attack the boys in their homes. Gally believes that this is all a direct consequence of Thomas's actions, and tensions come to a head. The movie peaks with the boys pledging allegiances and Thomas attempting to lead a group out of the maze and back to the free world.

I basically just told you the entire plot, and so I guess you no longer have a need to see this movie. Sorry about that. You can still indulge if you're really into teen thrillers and are a fan of the book series. Usually, I read the books before watching movies based on them. However, I did not do that this time. I kind of wished that I did. I found myself confused and impatient early in the film. The movie jumps right into the thick of things, which I assume the first book did as well. But the first half hour of this movie was so vaguely set-up that I felt totally adrift from it, not engaged. On the upside, things started to become a little more clear during the later parts of the movie. Still, what I saw was so implied that I felt I had to be told what was going on. I think many of the intricacies of the story and the characters were lost and/or glossed over.

The Maze Runner

Despite a weak plot, I did think the acting was quite good in this film, even though it was carried exclusively by a bunch of teenagers. They all exhibited skills that were beyond their years. I didn't know who most of the young actors were, but that might just be because I don't watch enough MTV these days. I'll give them a shout-out anyways. Dylan O'Brien played Thomas, Will Poulter was Gally, Aml Ameen played Alby, Ki Hong Lee was Minho, and Blake Cooper was the likable Chucky. Kaya Scodelario played Teresa. That's right, there is a woman who turns up in the Glades. She's the last to join the group, but also pretty influential.

The actual construction of the film is solid. It's well shot and visually appealing. The Grievers look pretty good--sort of half robot/half organic insect-oid. In that sense, the movie is well-done. I just wish that the film was as interesting to follow as it was to see on screen. At face value, the movie just seemed a little empty to me. However, I think I'll go ahead and watch whatever sequel comes along. It's clear that this is just a set-up for later additions to a film series. I think there's potential for them, as some clarity is shed into who these characters are and what really is going on in this on-screen world. This first film did not dwell too heavily on any of those details, and that's what caused it to disappoint for me.

Thumbs half up.

What He said:


Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is having a bad day. He just woke up in an elevator and has no idea how he got there. When the elevator reaches its destination, he’s plucked from it and placed in a makeshift prison cell without any explanation at all. Oh, and if that’s not bad enough, he doesn’t even know his own name.

He is eventually released by Alby, the group’s leader. Alby (Aml Ameen) explains to him tha they call came up the elevator one-by-one and none of them knew their names either, but their memory will return in part shortly. Alby also shows him the lay of the land.

The Maze Runner

They all live in an area they call the Glade. It’s a small forest-like enclosure, with a glade of course, that is surrounded by a giant wall. There is also a maze at one end of the glade. It opens every morning and closes every evening. Each morning, a few of the boys called runners go into the maze in an attempt to find a way out. They return every evening before the Grievers are released. Grievers are creatures that live in the maze and act as a sort of security system.

Thomas is also introduced to the rest of the group. The more prominent members are Gally, Chuck, and Minho. Gally is the ass hole of the group. He’s also the enforcer of the group and very to Alby and the society he has built in the Glade. Chuck is one of the younger boys. He doesn’t excel at anything in particular, but has heart and takes a liking to Thomas. Minho is one of the runners.

Speaking of runners, after something happens to the other runner, Ben, Thomas volunteers to take his spot. This annoys Alby greatly. He feels Thomas has not earned his spot and does not feel comfortable putting their potential freedom in their hands. He’s also jealous of Thomas, because Alby has taken a liking to him. This becomes an even bigger issue when Alby falls ill and there’s a power struggle for the vacant leadership position.

The Maze Runner

If that isn’t enough to deal with, another person is sent up the elevator in the midst of the drama. This time though, it’s a girl. Did I forget to mention all the rest of the members of their little society are boys. Like the rest of them, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) does not seem to know who she is or where she came from. She does, however, blurt out Thomas’ name while in a stooper after being escorted off the elevator. The fact that she seems to recognize Thomas annoys Gally (Will Poulter) even more. Fear and paranoia set in and he throws Alby, Teresa into the prison cells, and threatens to do the same to anyone who sides with them.

A small group of Thomas’ supporters plan to set him free and run into the maze with him. See, during one of their trips in there, he and Minho discover some things that were previously unknown to the group, and it gives people hope for escape.
The second I saw Will Poulter’s face, and it was implied he’d be the tough guy of the group, I was skeptical. I had only seen him in We’re the Millers, a comedy and one he played a boob in, I was leery of that casting choice. I was pleasantly surprised. I bought the performance. He was not dopey or unbelievable because of other roles I’ve seen him in. In fact, he kind of had a really good “dick face” thing going on. Dick face is what the She and I refer to as someone you hate simply be the look on their face. It’s someone who cannot hide their true nature, because it’s written all over their face.

The Maze Runner

I also thought Dylan O’Brien (who?) was good in the lead. I had never seen him in anything before and thought maybe he was hired to be a pretty face. Sorry to judge a book by its cover (again), but I simply wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought maybe he’d be a male version of the hot chick in action movies. He was a good lead though and I enjoyed the dynamic between him and Gally, as well as Alby (who I would have liked to have seen more of).

The movie had me pretty intrigued from the get go. I definitely found myself interested in what was inside and on the other end of the maze. Who put these kids there and why? I thought the movie did a solid job of building up the mystery. In the middle though, I thought it got a little generic. I wouldn’t call it bad. Hell, I’ll come right out and say it, I liked the movie. But there wasn’t a whole lot about the movie that stood out to me. It felt a little cookie cutter in parts. I did think the movie’s final acts got better and managed to salvage it. It was losing me for a bit, but finished up strong enough to make me feel more good than bad about this young adult novel turned movie. it’s not the best movie in the world, but not bad either. I’m definitely interested in seeing more despite this not blowing me away.

Rating: Thumbs half up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on January 11, 2014.

The Maze Runner