The Maze Runner

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A 16-year-old boy wakes up inside an underground service elevator with no memory of his identity. A group of male youths greet him in a large grassy area called the Glade that is enclosed by tall, stone walls. Every month, a new boy and supplies arrive in the elevator. The boys, who call themselves Gladers, have formed a rudimentary society with each assuming specialized tasks. Alby, their leader and the first to arrive in the Glade, says every boy eventually recalls his name, but none remember their past. The boy learns that a vast Maze surrounding the Glade may provide the only way out. During the day, designated Runners search the Maze for an escape route, returning before nightfall when the entrance closes. No one has ever survived a night inside the Maze.

While in a competition with another boy, named Gally, the boy suddenly remembers his name is Thomas. Later, Thomas is attacked by Ben, a Runner delirious from being stung by a Griever – deadly techno-organic creatures that roam the Maze at night. Ben is forced into the Maze and left to die as there is no cure for what the Griever infected him with. Minho, the lead Runner, and Alby later retrace Ben’s steps inside the Maze. Minho reappears at dusk dragging Alby, who was stung, but they are unable to reach the closing entrance in time. Thomas spontaneously runs into the Maze to help but all three are trapped. During the night in the Maze, Thomas and Minho tie Alby up high on the Maze wall to hide him from the Grievers, but Minho abandons Thomas when a Griever emerges from the center of the Maze. Thomas slides under the Maze wall, managing to hide from a Griever. Later, Thomas finds Minho and his actions during the night keeps them alive, and he kills a Griever by tricking it into a narrow, closing passageway thus causing it to be crushed, making him the first to ever survive a night in the Maze and kill a Griever. To the other boys’ astonishment, they return the next morning.

The next morning, the first-ever girl arrives in the elevator. She apparently recognizes Thomas though he cannot remember her. A note says that “She is the last one ever”. Thomas, Minho, Winston, Zart and Frypan enter the Maze. They locate the Griever corpse and remove a beeping mechanical device from inside it. Gally claims Thomas has jeopardized the fragile peace between the Gladers and the Grievers and wants him punished, but Newt, the group’s second-in-command, instead designates Thomas a Runner. Minho shows Thomas a scale model of the Maze he has built, based on his three years of exploration. The Maze’s numbered sections open and close in a regular sequence that might be a code. The device is numbered to correspond to a certain section within the Maze. With the mechanical device, they may be able to find an escape route.

The girl, Teresa, has two syringes filled with an unknown substance. One is used on Alby, and he gradually recovers from the Griever sting and begins regaining his memories. Minho and Thomas venture back into the Maze and discover a possible exit but are nearly trapped, barely making it back to the Glade.

That night, the Maze entrance does not close while others open, letting Grievers pour in. A massacre ensues as the Gladers, practically defenseless against the Grievers, struggle to fight back or hide. Alby saves Chuck from a Griever, but is killed moments later, telling Thomas to “Get them out”. Thomas is assaulted by Gally after the chaos, the latter blaming him for everything that has happened. Thomas, who has had disconnected memory flashes since arriving, stabs himself with a severed Griever stinger in an attempt to revive his memory. The others inject him with the last anti-venom. Unconscious, he recalls that he and Teresa worked for the organization that created the Maze, W.C.K.D. (World in Catastrophe: Killzone Department); the boys unknowingly have been test subjects for an experiment. Thomas awakens and shares this information with Newt, Minho, Chuck, and Teresa.

Meanwhile, Gally has taken command and intends to sacrifice Thomas and Teresa to the Grievers to restore the peace. Most of the Gladers are swayed to free Thomas and Teresa and attempt escaping the Maze, but Gally and a few others refuse to leave. Fighting Grievers as they go, the survivors escape the Maze (in the process Jeff dies trying to save Minho) and eventually enter a laboratory strewn with dead scientists and technicians. A woman named Ava Paige in a video recording explains that the planet has been devastated by a massive solar flare, followed by a pandemic of a deadly, incurable virus called the Flare that affects the brain of the afflicted. We learn that the Gladers appeared to be immune to the virus. The Gladers learn that they were part of an experiment studying the way their brains worked as a resistance to the virus. At the end, the woman in the video shoots herself as the lab is being attacked by men with military-style weapons but dressed more like mercenaries. Gally suddenly appears armed with a gun he found. Delirious from a Griever sting, he insists they must stay in the Maze, then aims at Thomas intending to kill him in revenge for the Glade’s destruction. Minho kills Gally with a spear, but not before Chuck is fatally shot protecting Thomas, who is devastated by his friend’s death. Masked armed men rush in and take the group to a helicopter. As they fly over the Maze, it is revealed to be placed in a vast desert wasteland. Eventually, the helicopter approaches a ruined city.

The scene ends with the supposedly-dead scientists meeting in a room. The leader, Paige, notes that the experiment has been a success; the survivors are now entering Phase Two

REVIEW:

With The Hunger Games franchise coming to an end, Hollywood is desperately searching for another surefire moneymaker. It seems as if The Maze Runner will be a the beginning of the next big franchise, or does it?

What is this about?

In a postapocalyptic future, an amnesiac named Thomas wakes up to find himself trapped with a group of other teenage boys in a mysterious community called the Glade, where they must uncover the deadly secrets of a giant maze in order to survive.

What did I like?

Maze. It seems to me that the most effective death traps are ones that test physical and mental capabilities. A killer maze that shift and changes, guarded by giant scorpion/spider-like creatures fits in that category, I’d say. I do see some similarities to the arena in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at least as far as the shifting is concerned, but it is a good idea that hasn’t been done to death, so no complaint.

Superboy. Can I just say that I’m jumping up and down for joy that the protagonist is a male. With all these girl power films coming out these days, it is almost like studios forgot that boys need someone, too. Dylan O’Brien is new to me. I think he’s on some show on MTV, but I don’t waste my time with that channel anymore. What I notice about this kid is how much he resembles Henry Cavill. If they ever make a Young Justice movie, maybe this is the guy to get for Superboy. He’s got the look and his acting isn’t bad, though admittedly, this isn’t the film to judge that on, as the material isn’t great. He does make do with what he has, though.

Techno-organic. The Grievers are the guardians of the maze. It is their job to keep the kids terrorized and not wanting to attempt to escape. They are good at what they do. What I like about them is their design. These things are a mixture of aliens, scorpions, and spiders, not something you want to come across in the middle of the night while you’re scared for you like in a killer maze. One more thing about them, they are techno-organic. Easiest way to translate that is they are more or less cyborgs, robots with some flesh and blood.

What didn’t I like?

Girl. At first, I was wondering why this was a group of nothing but boys, and then a girl shows up. I applaud the film for not making this into something where all the boys are chasing after her, but at the same time, these are teenage boys! Any male that goes that long without seeing a female is sure to go lose control of their hormones when they see one, unless salt peter is involved. For her part, she really wasn’t much of a factor. She showed up, had a girly moment on the tower, and then was pretty much invisible for the rest of the film. Maybe she is important in later installments?

Kids beware. The next generation is going to look back at our movies and wonder what it is we have against kids! Think about it, this film used a killer maze. The Hunger Games is survival of the fittest. Divergent is escape and survive, more or less. I’m not exactly a fan of kids, but I don’t want to eradicate them. What are we telling young people with these films, though?

The games continue. All these films are following a pattern, post-apocalyptic world, little to no food, kids in danger, adults pulling the strings, to be continued. If we are going to keep getting films like this, then there needs to be a new formula, because this one is starting to get old and stale, not to mention predictable. When the first adult in the film, Patricia Clarkson, shows up in the last act, it doesn’t take much to guess that she’s up to no good. It shouldn’t be that easy to guess that, though!

Final thoughts on The Maze Runner? It seems to be the heir apparent to The Hunger Games. While it won’t do those numbers, I can see this one going on to do respectable business. Whereas Divergent seemed to be very generic, this one seems to be going somewhere different. That being said, the tables could be tuned with both franchise’s second outing. Only time will tell on that one. Do I recommend this? Yes, though not highly, it is a worthwhile watch.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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