Last night I attended an advanced screening of The Maze Runner hosted by Penguin Random House Canada, a movie adaptation of James Dashner's book of the same title.
Now I have to admit that I have not yet finished reading The Maze Runner book. So I went into the film with little knowledge of the story, and I'm not going to compare the movie to the book here. Movie adaptations of books (particularly YA) books are hugely popular right now, some better than others. With no experience of the book, I came into the movie with minimal expectations.
The protagonist, a boy named Thomas, is played by Dylan O'Brien who we are introduced to immediately. Thomas finds himself in a strange outdoor area surrounded by a group of curious boys, only to discover they are also surrounded by four gigantic walls. The boys call this area the Glade and they have no memory of their lives before waking up here. All they know is that they must have been sent here by someone. They explain that outside of the Glade is a complex maze which changes overnight and which no one has escaped. The group of boys belonging to the Glade and living a truly life-or-death scenario, which was reminiscent to me of the survival story The Lord of the Flies. The dynamics of the group are also familiar to those found in Flies,
I was impressed with Dylan O'Brien's talent at adding some emotional depth and thoughtfulness to a character caught up in a movie that is mostly action and thrills. The remainder of the cast was excellent, as well. Thomas Sangster is brilliant playing Newt, the second-in-command of the boys living in the Glade. He skillfully straddles the line between a humorous young teenager and a burdened man whose experiences surpass his years.
As for cinematography, I thought the effects used were a good fit for the story's atmosphere of mystery and danger. However, I still don't understand this modern obsession with the constant use of shaky cam. Quite honestly, I rarely find the effect of a camera shaking so badly that I can't see what's happening on screen to be a useful mechanism for filming a movie.
Because the story is about survival, there is loss and there is violence. I wish that the film had focused a little more on that loss, because I think it would have added a stronger connection to the characters and their plight. But as a whole it felt rather rushed and simply glossed over. There are some slightly graphic, disturbing scenes that pack a punch (as a heads up).
The main reveal, while very interesting, lacked an explanation which tied the reveals to the previous events of the movie. By that I simply mean that it was hard to understand why the prior events were necessary. It's a neat twist to take which changes the direction of the story which I loved. With a sequel already in the works (and the fact that this is an entire book series), I have the impression that this will be better explained later on but it felt like a poor fit for a movie. But if you can suspend your disbelief for a few minor plot holes, and a larger one that will hopefully be explained later on, you're left with a fast-paced movie filled with secrets that's absolutely worth watching. It's a fun film and enjoyable to watch.
The Maze Runner releases in theatres on September 19, 2014.