This month’s book club pick is James Dashner‘s 2009 novel The Maze Runner. A film adaptation directed by Wes Ball was released in 2014.
The film opens in pitch blackness. Amongst the shadows we can see a young man traveling upwards in a metal elevator cage. He is breathing deeply and the sounds of the metal elevator are clanging. The sound design and visuals in this opening provide a strong start to the film.
The young man in the elevator is sixteen-year-old Thomas, portrayed by Dylan O’Brien (MTV’s Teen Wolf).
Thomas has no memory and soon learns that he is part of a group of teen boys that have been sent to live in this artificial environment known as ‘The Glade’ (shot on location in a lush and green Louisiana).
Alby (Aml Ameen) leads this group of boys with his right hand man Newt (Game of Thrones’ Thomas Brodie-Sangster). It is Brodie-Sangster that has the difficult task as an actor to deliver the backstory. This exposition does slow the pace at the beginning of the film.
From Newt and Thomas’ buddy Chuck (Blake Cooper) we learn that each boy in the community has his own role that he does in order to keep the society functioning. The boys’ ultimate goal is to solve a maze built beyond huge grey stone walls that are over a hundred feet high. Each night the entrance to the maze closes protecting the boys from the Grievers, a horrific monster that is a mix of metal and flesh that can bite, sting and kill.
The Runners, who are lead by Minho (Ki Hong Lee) run through the maze mapping it out.
Everything changes when a mysterious girl, Teresa (Skins‘ Kaya Scodelario), arrives in the elevator car. The boys were not expecting another delivery for another month – the pattern in the Glade. Teresa is the first girl to arrive and she will be the last.
Teresa and Thomas are somehow connected to the mystery of the Glade. The group will need to work together in order to escape the maze.
They have an obstacle in the form of Gally (Will Poulter, from We’re the Millers) who clashes with Thomas from day 1.
The true villain is Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) the head of the mysterious organisation that has trapped these boys in this artificial world. Clarkson brings a presence of authority in her very limited screen time.
First time feature director Wes Ball does a good job at encapsulating the spirit of Dashner’s novel. There are some changes, some which work for the better. For example, there is no telepathic communication between Thomas and Teresa – that would have been cheesy!
There is an open-ending, which sets it up for the sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, which was released in 2015. The third film Maze Runner: The Death Cure is due for release in 2018.