At every county fair there’s a challenging, exciting and exhausting corn maze. It’s filled with twists and turns, giving those who dare to enter the feeling that there’s no way out. “The Maze Runner” presents a lot of questions early on. And after going in circles for nearly two hours, the only way I hoped to come out of the theater with a sense of satisfaction was to get some believable answers. Instead, the final 20 minutes of “The Maze Runner” are simply packed with corn, leaving me dazed, confused and completely let-down.
Of course, I can’t give much away, not wanting to ruin some big “surprises”. But I can say, “The Maze Runner”, based on the first in a series of popular tween/teen novels, is completely unoriginal from start to finish. It’s “The Hunger Games” meets “Survivor”, with some “Amazing Race” and a little “Lord of the Flies” tossed in. And I’m sure there are a few more I’m leaving out.
Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien of “The Internship”) wakes-up one day to find himself in a crate elevator in the middle of a large field. He’s greeted by a group of 30 or so guys, ages 12-25. The “glade” is enclosed by giant walls, and they’re trapped inside. One of the walls opens-up every day, and over the course of three years, a few members of the group (the “runners”) have ventured in and discovered a large maze. But with dangerous, albeit cheesy-looking, monsters lurking in the night ready to kill them, no one has been able to find a way out.
A new male is sent to join the group every month, and a sense of rules and order has been established. None of them remember anything about their past, except their names. But all Thomas cares about is getting out. For some reason he’s the first one who is motivated to figure out what’s really beyond the maze and why he and all the others have been sent there. This leads to some risky situations. And when a girl named Teresa arrives, that really shakes things up.
“The Maze Runner” is Wes Ball’s feature film directorial debut, which comes as no surprise as the narrative is all over the place. The action scenes are underwhelming (including a moving doors sequence that’s much tamer than the one in “Monsters, Inc.”), and the performances are showy, with every dramatic and emotional scene feeling forced. The basic plot is intriguing and the story is good enough to hold your interest for a while, but as if stuck in a maze, midway through, the script just has nowhere to go. And by the final act, you really don’t care what happens to this group of stereotypical characters. I do give Ball credit for surprising us with a very bizarre ending. It’s just too bad that none of it works.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Maze Runner” gets a D+.