“The premise collapses under the weight of its own reveal.”

The Maze Runner
by Matt Allen

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Ki Hong Lee
Director(s): Wes Ball
Screenwriter(s): Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, T.S Nowlin
Running Time: 113 minutes

The ‘Young Adult Fiction’ market has exploded over the past decade and inevitably the source material has been systematically appropriated by studios in the hope of launching the next big franchise a la The Hunger Games. The latest attempt to emulate the success of the dystopic apocalyp-teen model comes from author James Dashner’s The Maze Runner

Thomas (O’Brien) emerges an amnesiac from a mysterious freight elevator smack in the middle of The Glade; an idyllic pasture at the centre of a deadly labyrinth. The status quo is shattered with the arrival of the Glade’s first female resident Teresa (Clarkson) who brings with her a message that time is running out…

It is no wonder that tales of teenagers in futuristic worlds where the heroes have been oppressed by hegemonic societies strike a chord with younger audiences. The exaggerated setting gives a heightened sense of drama to the themes that most adolescents relate to i.e. identity, rebellion and specifically in this case, finding a way out to the ‘real world’.

The Maze Runner starts out promisingly; the enigmatic nature of the environment – an enormous, concrete labyrinth that constantly shifts overnight and houses nightmarish monsters (huge cyborgian scorpions that lack any originality in terms of design) – is tantalisingly intriguing.

The majority of the first half concerns itself with exposition and establishes the group dynamic before the arrival of Teresa. Unfortunately, her character is generally underserved and fails to deliver the drama her arrival first promises. Her gender seems completely irrelevant to the plot despite the glaring fact that she is the only girl to be condemned to the Glade (surely that should have some significance) and subsequently this poses a question that is never answered.

Performances are solid all round, particularly from Will Poulter who proves with each role that his career will be a varied and impressive one. In a change of pace from his usual, more sympathetic and endearing characters, Poulter slips into the quasi-villainous role with ease and sports an effortless American accent.

Everything goes well until the third act where the premise collapses under the weight of its own reveal. Suddenly, we are made privy to the motivations behind the curtain and they are underwhelming and nonsensical at best. Plot holes sprout up completely out of nowhere and hints to a wider conspiracy are offered up with a sense of ill-deserved smugness.

The Maze Runner feels more like an extended pilot to a mildly interesting TV series. A disappointing opener that does little to incite interest in its eventual successors.