— -- Starring Dylan O'Brien, Will Poulter, Ameen AmlRated PG-13Three-and-a-half out of five stars
Welcome to the weekly post-apocalyptic, young-adult novel film adaptation review! Featured in this edition: "The Maze Runner," a movie and story that finds its roots in "Lord of the Flies," "Peter Pan," and the more contemporary belief that we’re all screwed.
"The Maze Runner" starts out by teasing us -- immediately throwing us into the action as we witness a tattered young man (Dylan O’Brien, MTV’s "Teen Wolf") struggling to find a way out of a large, gated elevator ascending an industrial-type elevator shaft. It’s intense, claustrophobic and intriguing. When he gets to the top, a hatch opens and he’s greeted by a multi-ethnic group of other young men, who help him from the elevator, whereupon he immediately runs -- and falls.
Turns out, this young man has no idea who he is (his name is Thomas, he soon learns) or what he’s doing in this place, which is called the Glade: part forest, part jungle, surrounded by four thick concrete walls and with only one large opening that leads to a complex, ever-shifting maze. It features a door that opens in the morning and closes at night. That maze may, or may not, be the only way out of the Glade, but it’s full of Grievers -- giant, spider-like creatures that sting their prey. Even with the danger, a few select young men explore and map the maze. They’re called runners, quite a few of whom went into the maze and never came back.
Other than his name, Thomas may not remember exactly who he is, but his motivation to leave the Glade and find out who put him there is strong enough to compel him to run into the maze with little thought or fear. That courage earns him a place with the runners. But can he find a way out?
The dizzying introduction to this particular world is unexpectedly fantastic. After that, however, it takes a while for "The Maze Runner" to build the momentum needed to get back to that emotional level.
That said, while "The Maze Runner" isn’t going to make anyone forget "The Hunger Games," it’s a well-executed story, and fine performances from O’Brien, Will Poulter as a tough-guy Glade elder, and Ameen Aml as the Glade leader, give it considerable gravitas that, in the end, helps pack that emotional punch.