Big screen treatments of Young Adult franchises have soared in popularity over the last few years, if not in critical reception at least in box office takings. Yet this adaptation of James Dashner‘s trilogy packs more adventure and character than other Hunger Games second wave films over the last few years, thanks mostly to its lead performances, and the box office figures thus far have been equally impressive.
A decent blend of American and British young actors is led by Dylan O’Brien, who plays our curious protagonist. Dropped into the maze’s epicentre with muggy origins and marketable looks, Thomas must adapt quickly to the maintained and civil existence of his fellow inhabitants, known as Gladers. Aside from the irritatingly wise leader Alby we are also introduced to Thomas Brody-Sangster as the affable Newt and Will Poulter’s brazen Gally, the only Glader who seems to thrive in containment, amongst a smattering of pleasant but disposable sub characters.
Thomas brings with him a speedy disposition and a mind for change, traits that earn him the role of a Runner and a divided reception from the group. Through his rookie take on escaping new clues are unlocked as to how to beat the ever mutating labyrinth and the Gladers begin to hope again. Adding trouble to the mix is Kaya Scodelario‘s Teresa, sent into the maze as the only female and final contribution to The Glade.
Unlike Divergent or Hunger Games this is an adventurous watch that both young and old can tolerate. There are no sticky love triangles or brutally violent ends to speak of. Instead of being set against each other these characters are a family, and a well natured cast make them thoroughly likable. Poulter’s Gally is the only stick in the mud but even when he’s beating his chest you can still sympathise with the lad.
A crippling night attack on the Glade forces our surviving members to their climactic fate, a reveal that would pack a great punch if a second chapter wasn’t already well under way for next year.
Wes Ball‘s feature length debut is a good natured, exciting adaptation with some sincerely tense moments. As the group face increasingly dangerous obstacles you realise that unlike many children’s films no one is safe, and raises the intrigue of just who will make it. As The Maze Runner is part of an inevitable trilogy the pacing is a little messy; several parts of Thomas’s story seem rushed yet painfully unclear on account of further plot details that will come next year, and you can only hope that Scodelario’s character receives a better story than serving as the Wendy to our Lost Boys.
For the most part Ball has handled the story well; obviously the maze is the catalyst for events but the film weighs heavily on the boys and girl, and the cast bear this admirably. More screen time for certain characters could have been enjoyable but the looming sequel dulls any chances of this, a curse that seems to follow any new page to screen journey with a young audience in mind. If The Maze Runner is not to be treated as a separate entity however this has all the makings of a good action film merged with a Stand By Me type get up, which leaves you if not excited at least curious to find out what happens next.