People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
We’ve hit the oversaturation point with dystopian YA films where every new one feels like it might be some loose amalgamation of the five thousand that have come before. From the trailer this looks like that film – a bunch of mildly attractive youth facing off against an unknown and seemingly unbeatable enemy.
The Maze Runner is, at its very core, as much your typical YA dystopian film as any we’ve seen before. A scrappy kid (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up in an elevator that deposits him in a weird glade, populated by a bunch of futuristic Lord of the Flies rejects, and surrounded by a particularly epic maze. Turns out Thomas is harboring a whole shit-ton of secrets, and his mere presence amongst the gentleman of the Glade (or Gladers) brings about a series of unfortunate events only the YA-est of YA novels would dictate. And yes, looking at that description, you’d think this film was another money grab for YA-hungry studios, but really, honestly, it’s not. The cast of gentlemen is strong (Son of Rambow’s Thomas Brodie-Sanger, Ami Ameen, and Will Poulter being particular standouts) and their interactions with both each other and the strange, man-made hell they’ve been deposited in, help push the film into a higher echelon of YA films. Don’t get me wrong, by the time the credits roll the film has exposed itself as an hour and half long television pilot struck through with all the worst trappings of films aimed at tweeners and the like. Prior to this though first time director Wes Ball gives his actors room to, well, act and it becomes a sort of futuristic, modern telling of Lord of the Flies if all of those wild English lads hadn’t turned into brutal savages. As much as this is a film about a bunch of teenagers running through a maze full of robot-spiders, it’s also a film about survival and what that means to each and all of us. Thomas, a brand new Greenie, isn’t content to just live out his life in the Glade, his natural proclivity is one of curiosity, and when he butts up against the solid rules and regulations of Alby (Ami Ameen) and Gally (Will Poulter) the film really shines. Unfortunately this is a film based on a quadrology of books, and it must put its youthful characters through those similar paces and when it does, the film suffers. Try as hard as you want Wes Ball, but you’re contained by the source material, and this suffocates the film just the right amount to never allow it to be as good as it could be.
Can we just make some original youth-oriented sci-fi films like they used to in the 1980s?