Monday, 29 August 2016
The Maze Runner, by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin (Twentieth Century Fox) | review
The film begins when Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) arrives. By then there are about thirty-two young men living in the glade, going by the cast list, and many others have already died (perhaps they were being vague with the talk of three years, and maybe there were months when more than one boy arrived). Thomas isn’t the kind of guy who’s happy to chill out in a lovely, peaceful glade. No, he wants to get out into the maze and find a way out. Problem is, out there in the maze live the Grievers, immense spider-cyborgs who’ll kill you just for being in their labyrinth. Gally (Will Poulter) thinks they should stay where they are and get on with living their lives. He’s totally right and the main character is an idiot.
The Maze Runner is a well-produced film, with good performances from a lot of talented young actors, but it has a lot of story problems. There is very little maze running, for a start, and it’s over an hour into the film before it begins. The maze was fully explored before our hero ever turned up, and he just leads a couple of short expeditions before getting very lucky. The maze is supposed to be a trial, a test, but for most of the young men that trial has involved a long, pleasant camping trip in a leafy field with bonfires and bacon. The only people who face any danger are those who fancy it. It could have been more aptly entitled The Guy Who Lives in a Nice Field with a Bunch of Dudes and Sometimes Pokes Around in the Maze for a Few Minutes. As part of their brainwashing it seems that the young men have been wiped clean of any desire, since the arrival of a young woman is greeted by many with dismay, as a bad sign. It’s not even suggested that her presence might be dangerous because they’ll begin to fight over her, or any thought given to what the presence of a woman might mean for the future of their colony. Do they not want to hear the noise of little runners’ feet? The monsters are well-designed, but as so often with CGI your heart knows it’s not real and they fail to truly thrill. Not an awful film, though, and it’s good to see this kind of revelatory science fiction on screen. It’s been compared to The Hunger Games a lot, but it’s much more like a little league version of the Riverworld saga. Stephen Theaker ***