I decided shortly after leaving “The Maze Runner” that aside from the impending “Hunger Games” finale(s) that I would no longer attend any of these new Young Adult post-apocalyptic movies. I feel there is little distinction between any of them or my opinions of them. There’s not much left to say about them, but I’ll give it a shot.
Much like “Divergent” or “The Giver,” “Runner” is a gritless, gutless dumbing down of potentially fascinating material for the tween crowd, giving them nothing more than hot men who maintain perfectly quaffed hair in even the most dangerous of situations.
The main attractive hunk is an amnesia stricken Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) who is thrust into a tropical forest, surrounded by a giant maze and filled with other amnesia stricken dudes. You would think what follows would be a “Lord of the Flies” scenario where a struggle for power amongst hormone filled men poses as the real threat¬¬, but you’d be wrong.
Known as The Glade, this men-only enclosure is run with peaceful prosperity where rules are not questioned but adhered to without question. If it were a reality show, it would not take long before someone watching would shout “Just throw champagne in his face!”
The men who populate The Glade behave based off the rules, not off personality, and in no way behave as young men (or any human) would in such a situation.
But standout performances from Will Poulter as Gally, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt play well as two men dealing with the fear of a changing landscape thanks to the arrival of Thomas in different ways. O’Brien does a fine job in the lead, but he falls victim to the “Meh Hero” cliché of the genre. There is just nothing special about him to make him worth rooting for.
The whole time I was thinking that maybe it would have been better if none of them had amnesia. Our responses to scenarios are based off past experiences. The fact no one can remember anything about himself or herself does nothing but drain any emotion from character interactions. Instead, they base every decision off the rules or the “but the Maze is scary!” device.
As for that scary maze, it’s neither terribly scary or much of a maze. Once the movie gets to the point where they should be exploring it, delving deeper into dark depths, they seem to forget that it is a maze. The shot after they enter the maze is one of them near the exit. Ignore the fact they have mapped it out perfectly despite it changing every night, it is not much of a maze if it appears to be a straight line.
Though there is refreshingly no sappy teen romance, what makes this movie noticeably worse than its contemporaries is that it relies so much on you coming back for more. The second the movie starts it prepares for its sequel. Its deliberate pace and lack of discovery about the world is considered okay because “oh, they’ll explain that in the next movie.”
Nothing starts developing or gets good until the end. Even then, character development, the navigation of the maze, and the mystery are resolved with big action scenes with lots of screaming just to unveil “it was all a test.” It’s a movie that cannot operate on its own two feet and tries to validate it as a mystery for itching tweens.
Maybe it would all be worth sitting through if it had even a glimmer of imagination. But like its fellow YA movies, even “The Hunger Games,” it settles for an uncreative wasteland scenario but cannot even delve into the issues of such an environment. “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” are eternal franchises because of the world they absorb you into, not because everything is disheveled. Also, they were good movies.