There is something admittedly captivating about the recent march of young adult science fiction films. Over the past couple of years, movie theaters have been top billed by either superhero sequels or young adult dystopia.
Although theaters could be flooded by much worse, it’s suffocating to think that commercial moviegoers have been limited to what appears to be clones of The Hunger Games. Thankfully, Maze Runner makes a strong effort to be more than just a cheap knock-off of what’s popular.
Based on the best-selling book series by James Dashner, Maze Runner feels familiar but is still genuinely compelling. A group of young boys are imprisoned in a large glade with little more than their names and a month’s supply of food, rations and tools to keep themselves alive.
But it’s the mysterious concrete labyrinth that surrounds their peaceful glade that becomes the ultimate barrier between the boys and the outside world. When newcomer Thomas (Dylan O’ Brien) decides to bend the rules by venturing out into the maze, he sets in motion a series of events that eventually compromises the peace among the boys.
It’s the mystery of the maze that keeps the story going, but it’s the film’s genuinely thrilling action sequences that keep it entertaining. Maze Runner is far from the mediocre cash-in it easily could’ve been, but unfortunately, there’s just not enough answers to satisfy the film’s many questions.
And while the film acts as a commendable science fiction thriller, it falls short of being a satisfying one.
As a thriller, Maze Runner makes good use of its screen time. The story flows with the urgency of an enthusiastic sprinter, and while the pace does keep the film from dipping very long into character, it does keep the story’s pulse racing forward.
Dylan O’ Brien carries most of the film’s weight as the reserved but determined Thomas, but supporting characters Alby (Aml Ameen), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and even the antagonistic Gally (Will Pouter) act as effective foils to Thomas’ disruptive personality.
Unlike other young adult forays, however, Maze Runner lacks a typical romantic storyline. While there’s untapped potential between Thomas and the film’s only girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Maze Runner makes the less predictable decision of doing without it.
Unfortunately, the film’s insistence on plot instead of character eventually proves problematic. Without any satisfying answers to the film’s mounting number of questions, there’s not enough to take away from Maze Runner outside of the odd yet thrilling chase through the movie’s ominous labyrinth.
Not getting any answers
Despite the film’s brisk plot and refreshingly thrilling sequences, Maze Runner ends with an unsatisfying aftertaste. This isn’t because the film lacks any fundamental components, but rather because Maze Runner presents questions that the film itself isn’t yet ready to answer.
By the story’s end it becomes predictably clear that Maze Runner is setting up a much more ambitious series of films. And while Maze Runner could admittedly do much worse for itself, the real disappointment here is that audiences have to either read the books or wait for the sequel for any tangible answers.
This has become the curse (and the complacency) of the recent glut of franchise films. With so many movies aspiring for sequels and trilogies, many of them have lost sight of delivering deeply compelling and satisfying experiences for the here and now.
In many ways, Maze Runner feels like a young adult reimagining of television’s Lost: interesting characters tangled in an initially engaging, but ultimately unsatisfying, mystery. While it’s admittedly incredulous to demand all the answers from a continuing story, there is something to be said about being given no answers at all. What makes matters harder to swallow is that Maze Runner ends with more questions in its last ten minutes than its entire two hour running time.
Although Maze Runner is a vastly superior outing to many of its contemporaries, it stumbles towards the finish line by getting lost in its own labyrinth of questions. Like the film’s imprisoned protagonists, the questions are out there, they just aren’t giving it to us. – Rappler.com
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
More from Zig Marasigan
- ‘Kimmy Dora (Ang Kiyemeng Prequel)’: A fallen franchise
- ‘My Little Bossings’: The horrible business of show business
- ‘Boy Golden’: Violent, colorful, and masterful fun
- ‘10,000 Hours:’ A higher standard of politics
- ‘Pagpag:’ Stylish superstition
- ‘Kaleidoscope World:’ A Magalona melodrama
- ‘Pedro Calungsod: Ang Batang Martir:’ A sermon best saved for church
- MMFF Cinephone: From film to phone
- ‘Islands:’ In the ocean of isolation
- ‘Shift’ is not a love story
- ‘Bukas Na Lang Sapagka’t Gabi Na:’ The art of rebellion
- ‘Blue Bustamante:’ A hero with a heart
- ‘Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy’: A hilariously absurd party of four
- ‘Lone Survivor’: War through Western eyes
- ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’: the brilliant crime of capitalism
- ‘Bride for Rent’: Falling back on formula
- ‘Mumbai Love’: Lost in Bollywood
- ‘Snowpiercer’: Beautiful, brutal science fiction
- ‘The LEGO Movie’ Review: A genuine block-buster
- ‘RoboCop’ Review: More metal than man
- ‘American Hustle’ Review: Style, subtlety, raw energy
- ‘Starting Over Again’: A different kind of Valentine’s
- ‘Basement’ Review: Better left dead
- ‘Nebraska’ Review: An elegant ode to the country
- ‘Third Eye’ Review: A vision of inconsistency
- ‘Her’ Review: Growth, change, and love
- ’12 Years a Slave’: Why it deserved the Best Picture Win
- ‘Kamandag ni Venus’: An achievement in awfulness
- ‘Divergent’ Review: Troubled teenagers
- ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Review: Behind the shield
- ‘Diary ng Panget’ Review: Where youth is only skin deep
- Summer 2014: 20 Hollywood movies we can’t wait to see
- ‘Da Possessed’ Review: A rushed return
- ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ Review: The enemy within
- ‘Godzilla’ Review: Size doesn’t matter
- ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Review: Rewriting history
- ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ Review: Shines bright despite the faults
- ‘Noah’ review: Not the Bible story you know
- ‘My Illegal Wife’ Review: A film worth forgetting
- ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ Review: A soaring sequel
- ’22 Jump Street’ Review: Solid and self-aware
- ‘Third Person’ Review: A writer’s dilemma
- ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ Review: Mind-numbing deja vu
- ‘Overtime’ Review: ’90s thriller meets camp comedy
- ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Review: More man than ape
- ‘She’s Dating the Gangster’: Asking for a greater love story
- ‘Hercules’ Review: More mess than myth
- Cinemalaya 2014: The 15 entries, what to watch
- Cinemalaya 2014: A quick guide
- ‘Trophy Wife’ Review: Tough choices, third parties
- ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Review: Fantastic trip to Neverland
- Movie Reviews: All 5 Directors Showcase films, Cinemalaya 2014
- Movie Reviews: All 10 New Breed films, Cinemalaya 2014
- To Mr Robin Williams, farewell from a fan
- ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Review: Childhood taken hostage
- ‘Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno’ Review: A promise to keep
- ‘Talk Back and You’re Dead’ Review: Story, what story?
- ‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’ Review: Lackluster return trip
- ‘The Giver’ Review: Thank you for your childhood
- ‘If I Stay’ Review: Between life and death
- ‘The Gifted’ Review: More than skin deep