The Maze Runner (2014)
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie Sangster, Blake Cooper
The Maze Runner comes as a direct response to the success of The Hunger Games (2012) and its sequels. After The Hunger Games made huge bank at the box office, suddenly there’s been a rash of subversive films aimed at the teen audience. I’m talking about films like Divergent (2014) and The Host (2013), films where youth resist the status quo, films where the young want to stand up for themselves and change things. To tell you the truth, I’m not a huge fan of The Hunger Games, I don’t know what it is about that franchise, to me it isn’t as big of a deal as they make it out to be. I mean, I love Subversive Cinema, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna love everything that shows a bit of a rebellious streak to it. I mean, there is such a thing as subversive crap. So yeah, of course I rolled my eyes a little bit when I heard about The Maze Runner because honestly, it just seemed like more of the same, and in many ways, it is. But then I saw the trailer and the whole idea behind the maze grabbed me; cause I’m a sucker for movies about mazes, puzzles and labyrinths. So anyhow, was The Maze Runner subversive crap, or what is a decent film?
This film has a lot of similarities with an obscure science fiction flick from the 90’s called Cube (1997), in fact, it plays with essentially the same idea, but on a much bigger scale. Cube was the little engine that could, a completely independent film that became a cult success and spawned two sequels: Cube 2: Hypercube (2002) and Cube Zero (2004). All these Cube films played with the same premise; that of a group of strangers with their memories wiped out, who suddenly find themselves trapped inside of a mysterious cube that seems to change every now and again. Together they have to get past their differences in order to survive the deadly cube and escape to the outside world, if there in fact is one. The Maze Runner uses that same exact premise, but in a giant moving labyrinth! The problem is that the kids trapped in the labyrinth don’t know why they are there; they don’t even know who they are. To top things off, they are afraid to venture out into the Labyrinth. What mysteries lie beyond their comfort zone?
So yeah, this movie was pressing all the right buttons for me cause I like movies that want to expose how crazy the world we live in is, I mean, society, it’s all kinds of messed up. We gotta live in this crazy world, and we gotta figure it out. Like a maze, that literally wants to kill us. In this sense I dug The Maze Runner, which is saying a lot because I went in ready to hate the hell out of it. Thankfully, it had some interesting themes to it. The movie is basically saying we’re all part of some sort of an experiment that the powers that be are conducting on us. That idea that the system is always watching us, that there is some ulterior motive behind their actions, that they are analyzing us and that we are oblivious to it, or choose to ignore it and conform. This is one of those movies where ‘they’ want to know what makes us tick, why we are who we are, so they can control us better. In this way, The Maze Runner also reminded me of Alex Proya’s Dark City (1998), a film that plays with similar themes. For example, in Dark City humanity is also part of an experiment and same as the labyrinth in The Maze Runner is always changing so does Dark City’s constantly changing city, hell, even the idea that the main character does not remember who he is was also used in Dark City. So we could easily say that The Maze Runner is a mix between Cube and Dark City, with a bit of The Hunger Games. In other words, not terribly original.
What I did like was the maze itself which is this huge mechanical thing, constantly changing, usually trying to kill the young kids trying to solve it. Whenever the kids would run into the maze, the film turns infinitely more exciting. My only gripe with the film is these CGI monsters that the kids have to fight when they go into the maze. For me it’s snoresville whenever characters start to fight computer generated beasties, I don’t know, it just bores the hell out of me; to me all these creatures look the same, to me they are all in one big blur. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t solely focus on these creatures and the story moves on, digging deeper into the mystery behind the labyrinth. Ultimately, what I enjoyed the most about the film is how it mirrors life. We are born into this world not knowing anything, others guide us, teach us. Then comes a point where we take the reins of our own life and become masters of our own destinies, searching for that ever elusive truth; which is usually covered by an avalanche of lies. Only the ones curious enough dare to begin that search, dare to ask the questions.
So in conclusion, The Maze Runner is an amalgamation of many films and books that came before it. I’ve already mentioned some of the films that influenced The Maze Runner, but I’d also add a little bit of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies into the mix of influences because same as Golding’s classic book, the film also speaks of mans natural tendency to fight each other, to form clans, to separate and of course, the resulting clashes that come from difference of opinions. My last take on The Maze Runner is that it isn’t ground breaking cinema, but it will keep you entertained for a while. This is what Hollywood is churning out now, cause it's a theme that's hot and it's also a reflection of how we are feeling about society. On the negative side of things, you do get the feeling that they are not giving you a whole lot of information because they are looking to set up a sequel, so this first film feels like an introductory tale, where they aren’t really giving you the whole story, there’s a lot of exposition, a lot of introductions. You kind of feel like they are stretching things a bit, as if they want to save more of the story for future installments, so yeah, this is obviously another franchise wannabe. Will it succeed at the box office? Will it spawn more sequels? How The Maze Runner fares at the box office will decide that, I personally wouldn't mind seeing where the story will go from here on in.
Rating: 3 out of 5