Based on James Dashner‘s 2009 book, The Maze Runner is the first in a trilogy of novels, directed by Wes Ball, that begins in a post-apocalyptic setting known as the Glade. When Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up with no memory apart from his name, he soon realises that he has been trapped in a gigantic maze with a group of other boys. By piecing together fragments of his past with clues that come back to him in his sleep, Thomas begins to uncover his true purpose, as well as the possibility of an escape. But is there an exit to be found? And is the world outside even one worth returning to?
The following post is a review of the film only. You can read my review of the book on its own here or my comparison of the film to the book here.
The Maze Runner is a dark story full of adventure, hope, determination, and desperation. Centring on a group of young characters who are forced to grow up in unbelievable circumstances, it’s this dark approach to its dystopian setting that makes The Maze Runner a refreshing approach to your typical coming-of-age story.
It is the perfect novel to be adapted. With the maze’s epic scale and the novel’s dystopian atmosphere, the setting urges to be visualised, which is the film’s biggest success from the novel. The whole appearance of the Glade and the Maze brings the story to life superbly, with the scale of the walls and view of the maze from afar adding some much-needed dimension to the story.
One visual that I didn’t agree with, however, was that of the Grievers. In my head, the Grievers rolled into robotic minstrel-shaped ovals when moving through the maze. In the film, they appeared more alien than robotic, but this isn’t a flaw, only a personal aggravation.
Aside from the visuals, it’s the strength in The Maze Runner‘s original story and the way in which it develops that makes the book such a good one to adapt, as there’s so much constantly left to find out. With no memories, we know nothing of the world outside of the Maze; whether it has been burnt to the ground, has been taken over by a strict government, or if the Maze is simply somebody’s idea of just a bit of fun. Glimpses of the world outside through visions and piecing together of information are slowly unravelled, but it doesn’t sound promising. All we know is that this group of boys need to find a way out, if there is one at all.
With a brilliant cast of young actors, the adaptation also fails in overshadowing most of the supporting characters. Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Gally (Will Poulter), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), and Chuck (Blake Cooper), are still big players in the film, but there’s never enough emphasis on them for you to care enough about them. In the book, Thomas works closely with everybody, getting to know the different jobs and the Keepers of these roles. It’s easy to see Thomas’ relationship with Newt forming in the film, but there’s not enough focus on the other boys and how they work together, meaning that characters including Winston, Jeff, Clint, and Frypan, all feel insignificant.
Whilst most of this story adapts well, the film is constantly ambiguous and there are many plot holes left unexplained for viewers who haven’t read the book. Obviously there’s not enough time for the adaptation to detail everything in the way that the book did, but the film, especially, misses out on developing Chuck’s friendship with Thomas. It does attempt to show his vulnerability with the scene of him talking about his parents, but it doesn’t have the same emotional impact at the end, since you don’t see Thomas as the inspiration and mentor that you read him as.
As for other relationships and characters, I do appreciate that the film doesn’t hover over any flirting or romantic sparks between Thomas and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), as this first instalment needed to be a film about these boys working together and finding out their purpose, without having any other distractions.
Overall, the film itself is a decent teen sci-fi, with stunning visuals and a dedicated effort from director Wes Ball. My issues, however, lie with the scriptwriter, Noah Oppenheim, due to the huge changes from the novel. If I hadn’t read the book beforehand then this could have easily been in my Top 10 films of this year, but because I loved the novel so much, I’m largely disappointed with how it’s been adapted.
The Maze Runner film has some great moments and it’s a story that works incredibly well on the big screen, but it’s also filled from start to finish with constant changes and inaccuracies when comparing it to the book. It’s always something to be expected from a book adaptation, as changes inevitably have to be made for a number of different reasons.
Alas, whilst there are many annoyances running through my head, The Maze Runner was still an enjoyable film, and everything is brought together well at the end. Most of what the film misses out on or changes from the book is quickly rectified, although there are a few changes that may cause problems in future adaptations, but the last 20 minutes or so more than make up for its initial flaws, explaining everything solidly and getting everybody anticipated for what’s to come.
Even though I’m not a huge fan of this first film, The Maze Runner is still a fantastic story and I’m definitely going to continue reading the rest of the trilogy, so all I can do is hope that the adaptations get better as keep going.