Movie Review: The Maze Runner (2014)

imageThere’s an intriguing story buried within the Lord of the Flies/Hunger Games/Prison Break mashup that is Wes Ball’s The Maze Runner (C-), but boy is the execution a tedious zig zag tracing some well-trod lines we have seen many times before! An all-teen-boys village of the future requires runners to scope out a maze each day in hopes of finding a pathway to escape (maybe they think there are girls on the other side?) There aren’t Minotaurs in the labyrinth but rather a selection of sinister electric spiders that attack at night if you get trapped in the maze’s doors that close at sunset. A preposterous young adult novel plot really needs an amazing lead actor to add gravitas to the proceedings, and alas the stoic Dylan O’Brien fails to fill the screen with charisma as the new man on campus. The entire ensemble, to be fair, is really quite dreadful in both talent and appearance, representing each cliche available for the dead sprinters’ society and clad in Gap outfits that don’t give one the sense that the costume department really thought out what the dystopian future really looks like. Where is the White Squall casting director when so desperately needed? When a female character (Kaya Scodelario) finally shows up to add some much-needed gender politics to the Katniss Ever-Peen mix, she’s as cardboard as the rest and gives the affair all the excitement Smurfette provides to a Peyo tale. To the film’s credit, there are several really heart-stopping action moments and a few elaborate set pieces of note, although nothing much better than you’d find on a typical episode of Lost. The doubting antagonists are insufferable, the Piggy-esque sidekick grating and the multiple trick endings stupefying. The final reel felt like a big set-up for a better sequel when the cast members have all completed their acting boot camp. There are endless possibilities about how this film could have been rendered with more panache.