Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
There has been a lot of media lately about exactly how much interest young adult fiction adapted books are getting and whether or not the genre can be deemed a bonafide success with audiences. Unfortunate comparisons to The Hunger Gamesjuggernaut are inevitable and to date the genre has been almost exclusively dominated by those stories set in distant dystopian futures. Perhaps with the exception of the films about death and dying The Fault in Our Stars and the upcoming What If I Staymany of the films are more similar than different.
And let’s face it, these films aren’t light comedies.
The latest YA adaptation of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is a tense affair that begins much like The Hunger Games (there’s that inevitable comparison) as its protagonist Thomas is elevated from darkness to blinding light and the surface of The Glade. Here he is met by his Lord of the Flies compatriots who live surrounded by four 150 foot walls, one of which opens every day so that “runners” from the Glade can travail the maze and try to uncover its secret.
Thomas’s arrival causes a number of problems in this tribe of teens. Primarily, he seems to be the only one who questions why The Glades inhabitants haven’t tried to escape the maze. He is told, in no uncertain terms by Gally (Poulter) that no one has ever questioned why, but they need to work together to survive.
Merely days after Thomas arrives at The Glade, the lift arrives again with a girl named Theresa who carries a mysterious note “She is the last one”. Thomas and Theresa have more in common than they realise. Slowly they share flashbacks and snippets of information from their dreams that will ultimately enable them to lead the Gladers to safety and out of the maze.
There is one thing about this film that impresses. It’s impressive visual look belies a small budget. Much like Lionsgate did with the first Hunger Games film, there is ingenuity in the filmmaking here. With a small budget, director Wes Ball has realised a massive scale in part using both practical and digital sets. This will work in the films favour as there is a strong possibility that Twentieth Century Fox will commit to the two other books in the series The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure.
And they will need to because the film really does feel like a massive lead up to the sequel. Much of the narrative is revealed to the audience with the characters, so like the Maze Runners, viewers are bated each step of the way with clues as to why the maze exists and its horrifying inhabitants, the Grievers.
The film’s young cast is impressive. Poulter has the thankless task of being the naysayer of the group and so you do tend to feel for the character as the protector of a way of life that seems to be slipping away. Dylan O’Brien has an impressive film debut as Thomas. His genuine presence on screen makes him the believeable and relatable as a charismatic leader.
When much of the narrative tension leads to the climax, there will be a need to at least adapt the second book in the series to film to satisfy viewers who have invested in this first film. Let’s hope there is still life in the young adult fiction genre yet.
What the Bible says about themes in the film
What is the true nature of community? (Romans 12:3-13, Acts 2:42-47)
What should our attitude toward the future be? (Jeremiah 29:11, Revelation 2:11)
Should we have hope in the future? (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 4:8, Revelation 22:12)
Why should we work together? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Adrian Drayton is the Director of Reel Dialogue. A film buff and critic for 20 years, he believes in the power of cinema and the power of God to start conversations.
He is also a massive Star Wars nerd.