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Here’s a sense of almost comforting routine at the beginning of the new teen sci-fi action film The Maze Runner, steeped as it is in the conventions of its genre, dutiful about hitting all the required notes while maintaining the clueless bravado that it’s showing us something new. The Maze Runner full movie is about as schematic as it gets, but it gets by for a little while on those ritualistic rhythms.
But then, like Divergent or The Mortal Instruments before it, The Maze Runner movie 2014 becomes dull and hurried, racing toward a trailer-worthy climax and an overly optimistic sequel setup. We’ve seen this happen too many times before.
The Maze Runner full movie, as you may have guessed, is about a vast maze. At the beginning of the movie, a boy (Dylan O’Brien, the much crushed-on spastic sidekick on Teen Wolf) wakes up in a freight elevator, with no idea where he is and, more troublingly, who he is. At the top of the elevator shaft he’s welcomed by a group of other teenage boys, alternately scraggly and hulking, who sadly inform him that he’s in a place known as the Glade, and that he’s basically stuck there.
The boy, who soon remembers that his real name is Thomas, realizes that nobody knows why they are there, the only certainty being that once a month a new “Greenie” shall arrive, and that behind the walls surrounding the Glade is an intricate labyrinth that turns deadly after dark. A few fearless boys, called Runners, race through the maze during the day, mapping it out and hoping to find a way out, but the rest religiously stays in the safety of the Glade.
As is tradition with these movies, the first 30 or so minutes is devoted to step-by-step exposition, the movie laying out its rules and terms so that, I guess, we’ll become invested in its world as quickly as possible. Greenies, the Glade, Grievers, the Changing, Slicers. There are a lot of terms thrown at us in rapid succession, all spoken with the same offhand coolness, an attempt at assured credibility that instead feels forced.
The Maze Runner wants to have its own pods and mutts
I found myself wondering things such as why these lads would call the scary monsters “Grievers” rather than just “monsters,” or why butchers need to be called “Slicers.” Isn’t it easier to just say butchers? I understand that The Maze Runner wants to have its own pods and mutts and Panems (all from the Hunger Games lexicon), specific elements that give its tale individual life, but there’s something too flimsy and perfunctory about the vocabulary of The Maze Runner.
Maybe I’m just tired of seeing the same parameter-establishing scene over and over again, but I found myself getting annoyed by this movie’s half-assed attempts at individuality.
Once things do begin cooking in the maze, the movie gains some traction. The mystery of who these kids might be, and why they are where they are, does pose a few mildly interesting questions, even though director Wes Ball tends to pull us too fast into a new sequence before something potentially gripping has had the chance to register.
He’s at least found a good lead in O’Brien, who here doesn’t do any of his endearing Teen Wolf wisecracking, but holds the screen with a confident charisma that could be put to powerful use if Hollywood lets him grow up a little and gives him a shot in the major leagues. There’s a mischievousness dancing behind all the requisite boyish decency, hints of an actor hungry for smarter, meatier fare.
Would that he had a true scene partner. When, surprise, a girl appears on the elevator a few days after Thomas’s arrival, the ordered society of the Glade will definitely be changed forever. That the girl, Teresa, is played by Kaya Scodelario, a cultishly beloved actress from the cultishly beloved British teen series Skins, suggests that she’ll have something interesting to do here.
Sadly, she does not. Scodelario, who was once the fan choice to play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, has been given a meager consolation prize with The Maze Runner, which is so stymied by the arrival of a girl that it quickly decides to run away from the problem and ignore her entirely. Scodelario deserves better than this, as does the audience. The picture also makes no attempt to explain the awkward elephant in the room, which is sex. The boys’ interest in Teresa is fleeting and entirely chaste, likely because bringing other, potentially more dangerous topics to the film’s table would prove too messy and complicated.
The Maze Runner is a film that shies away from complexity
Overall, The Maze Runner is a film that shies away from complexity, at least until we reach the eyeroll-inducing reveal at the end of the movie, which comes complete with a fake-out sequel tease and a Respected Actor cameo. (Patricia Clarkson, the only other woman in the movie, hardly able to hide her smirk.)
The why of The Maze Runner full movie proves strange and confusing, a tacked together jumble of dystopian tropes. We’re supposed to leave the theater itching for more, and indeed I did immediately open Wikipedia to read the plots of the next two books in James Dashner’s series. But about two paragraphs in, my eyes glazed over and I found myself actually didn’t really care. It didn’t matter where this labyrinth ends, I just wanted out.