The Maze Runner (PG-13)

8 Stars

What do The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, Divergent and The Maze Runner all have in common?

They’re based on dystopian YA novels.

They’re also introductions to a multi-part series.

And I never stop hollering about this, but they’re all rated PG-13.

Which is ultimately The Maze Runner’s least redeeming quality.

After all, it’s my favorite of the four previously mentioned.

The MZ’s mostly a quality flick.

Although the stakes are high, the ratings-board approved shellac is still clearly visible. An educated viewer can’t shake the awareness of censorship.

For example, during the more harried sequences (mostly involving a battle or pursuit via ‘grievers’) the filmmakers use the shadowy quick-edits to obscure the violence.

Luckily the CGI monsters are shown in full.

The ‘grievers’ are buffalo-sized mechanical beetles. As far as creatures go, they’re truly outstanding, original and horrific.

The only problem stems from a false hint at the surreal.

If you pay close attention, The Maze Runner is an astounding allegory for entering adulthood. This is in keeping with the summer trend of allegorical science fiction, with Snowpiercer (which I do recommend) and The Zero Theorem (which I don’t).

The plot develops lightning fast. This in turn can lead to confusion.

Or maybe I’m just too old for this sort of thriller.

So, yes, an elevator shaft is reminiscent of the birth canal.

Yes, a labyrinth is a classic metaphor for life.

Yes, the supporting characters resemble archetypes.

But the mind-bending portion of this thrill ride’s a red herring.

Because, no, the plot doesn’t take place inside the protagonist’s head. The viewer need not be concerned with how individual events fit into the self-contained metaphor.

Consider the sequence of obstacles Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien) must overcome while fleeing the first griever. Think about the ways he adapts to the physical environment, the increasing risk and differing tasks required to move forward.

A few notes on the acting.

The girl, Kaya Scodelario, turns in a solid performance as Teresa. As does Blake Cooper playing Chuck, the protagonist’s younger buddy.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster (of Game of Thrones fame) plays Newt, punching the thespian clock with efficiency.

Will Poulter from We’re the Millers plays a bit of a one-note character but executes the role proficiently. I like this guy; he’s going places.

Patricia Clarkson plays Ava Paige, a mash-up of Glenn Close’s Nova Prime in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jodie Foster’s Secretary Delacourt in Elysium. Much like Teresa, we learn very little about Ava.

The mix of action, suspense and adequate special effects add up to a compelling thriller and a strong entry into the YA novel-turned-film catalogue.

See it in IMAX – this is one you won’t want to miss.

Things aren’t looking good for the Ender’s Game franchise.

However, according to Wikipedia, “Two weeks prior to [The Maze Runner’s] release 20th Century Fox decided to move ahead with the sequel and pre-production began in early September 2014 in New Mexico.”

Whether or not the box office earnings compensate for the $34 million budget, it seems like we’ll be seeing a follow-up.

If anyone’s looking, I’ll be in my tent, eagerly awaiting The Scorch Trials.

Thoughts, perchance?

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