DVD REVIEW: THE MAZE RUNNER / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: WES BALL / SCREENPLAY: NOAH OPPENHEIM, GRANT PIERCE MYERS, T. S. NOWLIN / STARRING: DYLAN O’BRIEN, KAYA SCODELARIO, THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER, WILL POULTER, PATRICIA CLARKSON / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 9TH
The young adult novel book-to-movie hit ratio is probably somewhere around the 50% rate at the moment. Pop culture phenomena like the Twilight saga and The Hunger Games are counterbalanced by howlers like Vampire Academy and The Mortal Instruments, potential franchises crushed by audience apathy (and the fact that, let’s be honest, they were just no damned good). The Maze Runner, based on James Dashner’s 2009 novel, arrives to put a much-needed tick in the credit column; although it creaks and groans under the weight of a hundred similar vaguely post-apoc young adult dramas that have preceded it, and it’s sometimes too eager to please its teen audience by giving them what they know and expect, The Maze Runner is a brisk, no-nonsense adventure full of smouldering young people in deadly danger, a deep and dark conspiracy and, for a change, some nasty monsters.
Amnesiac youth Thomas (O’Brien; dark, brooding) finds himself in a sunny grassland area known as the Glade, occupied entirely by buff teenage boys (oo-er) who have been arriving, along with supplies, at the rate of one a month for three years. They’ve fashioned a primitive (but quite comfy-looking) society and occasionally they explore the huge, towering maze which encloses them in the vague hope of finding a way out of their predicament. But the maze is infested with strange and lethal poisonous creatures and when Thomas himself becomes a ‘maze runner’ (hence the title) and the first female arrives amongst the group, it seems that the secrets of the maze and its grisly inhabitants are about to be revealed.
Whilst it appears that it’s nothing but a shameless rip-off of The Hunger Games (bunch of teenagers in an isolated location – watch them fight and/or die!) The Maze Runner is actually a much more straightforward adventure story. With none of the sickening tweeness of Twilight or the political aspirations/pretensions (delete according to opinion) of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner just gets on with the business of telling a good yarn and leaving the intrigue and breathless backstory for the last act – to be developed in this year’s inevitable sequel The Scorch Trials (ouch). Refreshingly free of the cloying romantic element threatened by the arrival of Teresa (Scodelario), The Maze Runner focuses on developing its claustrophobic world and emphasising the unsettling contrast between the idyllic grassland and clear blue skies of the Glade and the oppressive and threatening maze, which towers above and around it and the hideous Grievers that inhabit it.
Tautly-plotted, punctuated by thrilling and tense action sequences, some serious big-ass monsters (the cybernetic spider/beetle hybrids which scuttle around the maze), and with solid performances from the likes of Teen Wolf’s O’Brien and up-and-coming Brits Will (Son of Rambow) Poulter and Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones, Doctor Who), The Maze Runner is a welcome and intelligent addition to the YA action movie genre. It’s not a franchise destined for the iconic status of its contemporaries, but it’s a worthwhile thrill ride in its own right.
Special features: TBC