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Review: The Maze Runner

This review originally appeared in an abridged version in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad. It is reprinted here with their permission for your reading pleasure... or displeasure depending on how you feel about The Maze Runner. 

Dylan O'Brien stars in Maze Runner

The last thing anyone will ever enjoy about The Maze Runner, should they be so lucky as to enjoy it, is a review describing the finer points of its narrative. Let if suffice to say that Stiles from Teen Wolf wakes up in a large glade surrounded by a huge stone maze. It is not a metaphor for Dylan O' Brien's navigation of sudden stardom. The only inhabitants of this sealed environment are a group of similarly aged boys, none of whom are frequently shirtless werewolves, dammit.

Why are they there?

Who put them there?

Can they ever escape?

What’s different about Dylan O’Brien besides the largest paycheck?

Will there be a sequel?

The movie shall answer all of these questions in 113 minutes! And many more. In fact The Maze Runner so loves to ask and answer questions, that it does so in literally every scene rivalling Inception in sheer expository percentages of dialogue uttered.

Since the movie loves to answer, here's 12 more questions if you click to enter the maze

01 Why are you using words for world building? World building, that obsession of all genre fiction, is great in novel form since you can drone on with descriptive detail for pages and pages of prose and we feel immersed. In a movie, you are supposed to replace a lot of that prose with visual learning. For example, you don’t have to explain what “runners” and “builders” are or what a "maze" is. We can guess since these are words we are passingly familiar with and we can even see some of the boys running and some building and that huge ass maze surrounding them.

02 Did you know you were upsetting the block of teenager girls behind me? Not that they didn’t love the movie. They were squealing a lot, particularly with the introduction of each character, especially Thomas (O'Brien), Alby the leader of the glade (Aml Ameen) and a chubby boy named Chuck (Blake Cooper). But they vocally noted every minor detail that veered from the holy scrit (i.e. the YA best-seller this is based on)

03 How much did you pay the great Patricia Clarkson to waste her talent on sinister talking head exposition and literally nothing else? That was rhetorical. It could not possibly have been enough.


04 Why are the action scenes so darkly lit? Is this is a budget thing that you can fix the next time since you're already a hit. It's probably not from lack of visual ability since debut director Wes Ball does exhibit solid signs of visual grammar awareness - love all the shots that make the runners look teeny tiny, dwarfed by that oppressive maze.

05 Do all the maze runners have photographic memory? They have great accessories courtesy of the costume designers (Christine Bieselin Clarke & Simonetta Mariano). But their harnesses (on loan from Mariano's 300?) and gloves do not appear to contain any drawing utensils or paper so how have they mapped that whole maze?

06 SPOILER ALERT Did you let Minho (Ki Hong Lee) kill that one guy just so that you wouldn’t sully the hero’s character?  And did you learn this from Disney where the villain never dies by the hero's hand but usually accidentally, by falling? Regardless of your answer thanks for putting Ki Hong Lee in so many scenes since he's the cutest Maze Runner. Sorry, Dylan.


07 May I put in a request for more shirtlessness — any shirtlessness really — in the next movie? Maybe the next maze can be in a tropical setting? Or maybe Minho could accidentally have his shirt ripped off in an action sequence. (The harness can stay)

08 Why are there no homosexuals OR heterosexuals in the future? These guys have lived together in the glade for years and none of them are even FWBs. And they don’t show any interest when Teresa (Kaya Scoledario), the only girl they’ve seen in years, arrives either. No sex in the future? Talk about a dystopia! 

09 What's with all the anal sex imagery? Secret passages that open like sphincters? Metal tubes covered in lube that activate such things? Does this have something to do with there being no sex in the future?

10 Have none of these characters ever read Lord of the Flies? They are remarkably well behaved, self-policing and orderly for teenagers left to their own devices for years on end.

11 Regarding the ending: Are you for real? What a load of bollocks! (I’m allowed to use British slang because Teresa suddenly and inexplicably has a British accent in the middle of that one scene) The ending monologue doesn’t even make sense in context.

12 When does the sequel come out? Asking for a friend.

Grade: C-
Oscar Hopes: Not even in the technical departments. Teen dystopias clearly aren't there thing if the most respected among them (the Hunger Games franchise) can't even manage 1 nomination anywhere

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Reader Comments (10)

None of the cute boys take their shirts off? Really? (I'm totally asking for a friend, btw)

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Fabulous review. I hope to see this movie.

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAtif

Oh, there's no romance? No wonder so many posters on my box office forum are all, "The Maze Runner is YA for GUYS!" gung-ho about it. Most of the other YA fantasy/sci-fi adaptations of late have a shipping element to them that seems to appeal more to female fans, so there are probably many younger males who find the approach here refreshing.

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

I actually liked it but I had major problems with the lack of shirtlessness in this movie too. I mean, just look how snug Dylan O'Brien's t-shrt was. What a tease.

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNikhat

I thought it was okay but I dosed off during the middle and the ending was a little far-fetched. I'm happy that they didn't go the obvious route of having the guys be into the sole girl, however. In saying that, I can't for the life of me remember why she was in this movie.

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

None of the cute boys take their shirts off? Really? (I'm totally asking for Roark, btw)

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFriend_of_Roark

The girl was probably thrown it to remove any minor suggestion of homosexuality- well there is nothing gay in "The Lord of the Flies" but the boys in that were younger.

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I am weirdly a fan of this, especially the first hour. Found it well shot, able to have mystery without a giant info dump and pretty tense.

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

Ki Hong Lee--Mercy, that's some major babeage right there! He might be worth sitting through this crap.

Have to say--love how in these movies that the pretty faces are smeared with sweat and dust, but the hair is always perfectly coiffed!

September 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I walked out of this movie because I was bored out of my mind- this might have made a good "Twilight Zone" episode or a one hour "Outer Limit"- I found the lead kid truly dull- yes they should have made Ki Hong Lee the star- he was the only one that had any charisma.

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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