The Maze Runner has probably been my best theater experience in the past two years. I didn’t have to suffer through shitty 3D glasses—they didn’t even have a 3D showing—and unlike when I saw Godzilla, my theater actually remembered to turn the damn sound up to a volume loud enough to hear. Unfortunately, since God apparently hates me, there had to be something wrong. There’s construction going on in the next lot over, and it’s loud. So while I was attempting to enjoy the movie, I was simultaneously listening to the grating sound of a drill chipping away at concrete the whole damn time.
Other than that, though, The Maze Runner was a really interesting watch.
The Maze Runner takes place in a future dystopian society, where a group of boys have been abandoned in a place called the Glade. The Glade is surrounded by a large, deadly maze, with no discernible exit. The gates leading into the Maze close at night, which is for the best, because that’s when venomous creatures called Grievers come out. Less fortunately, if for one reason or another a Glader doesn’t return to the safety of the Glade before nightfall, the Grievers will kill him. In fact, no one has ever survived a single night in the Maze. That all changes with the arrival of a new Glader named Thomas. Thomas, like the other Gladers, doesn’t remember anything about himself except his name, and like the other Gladers, he has no idea how he even ended up in the Glade.
Thomas is, however, very curious, and he does occasionally experience flashes of his past. After his arrival, life for the Gladers changes drastically. One of their Runners—people they send into the Maze to look for a way out—is stung by a Griever in the middle of the day, which was previously unheard of to the Gladers. On another occasion, when Runners Minho and Glader leader Alby enter the maze, Alby is also stung by a Griever, and Minho is unable to drag him back to the Glade in time before the gates shut. Thomas, seeing their plight, enters the Maze to help them. Using his own wits, Thomas even manages to trap and kill a Griever, successfully saving both Minho’s and Alby’s lives—making them the first people to survive the Maze at night.
From there on, things start changing even more. The next arrival at the Glade is a girl named Theresa—the only girl to ever arrive—and with her is a piece of paper that reads “She’s the last one”. After her arrival, whoever sent them to the Glade in the first place stops dropping off supplies and new Gladers, and a new section of the Maze that the Runners have never seen before opens up. Shit really hits the fan when a few nights later the gates won’t shut, allowing Grievers into the Glade. Thomas and Minho lead the remaining Gladers who survive that night into the Maze either to find the exit or die trying, as they have no other options.
And not to give too much away, the Maze’s exit is literally a door with an exit sign over it.
The biggest problem with The Maze Runner is that we’ve all seen it before. From The Hunger Games, Divergent, or even something like The Giver, The Maze Runner at its core is about someone in a future dystopian society who challenges the status quo and disrupts whatever order the rest of society has implemented. The moment Thomas arrives, his personality clashes with the rules set down by the other Gladers. No one who isn’t a Runner is supposed to enter the Maze, but he does it anyway. And in the process, he manages to save the lives of the Glade leader and head Runner.
Thomas’s actions are more or less reckless, even though they’re done for good reasons and end up having positive results—in the end, he and plenty of Gladers do escape the Maze—but his way of doing things still challenges the status quo. As such, the Gladers end up divided and even have a brief fight among each other. The Maze itself reminds me a lot of the arenas in The Hunger Games—it is one giant death trap designed to kill most of the Gladers. When Thomas leads a good number of Gladers out of the Maze, the people who built it even remark that they weren’t expecting there to be so many survivors. Additionally, Thomas and Minho first find the exit a good while before everything goes to hell. Then, they head back to the Glade instead of escaping. It’s that night that the gates won’t shut, so as far as I’m concerned—I haven’t read the books, so I don’t know for sure—the Maze’s creators intended to kill everyone after a Runner finally escaped.
At the very least it is a different story from The Hunger Games—there’s no romance thus far, and all the characters are amnesiacs, adding to the suspense, since no one knows what’s happening and why—but it is the same general idea. As someone who loves The Hunger Games and dystopian futures, this did not bother me as much as it seems to have bothered other critics. I also cannot talk about how well this movie stayed faithful to the original book. Though I expected there to be numerous differences, judging by what other people online have said and the Wiki page, the movie seems to deviate more from the books than it should have. For instance, Thomas and Theresa are supposed to have a telepathic connection with each other. That did not show up in the movie at all.
And while we’re talking about Theresa, The Maze Runner doesn’t do a lot with her character. She just shows up with a note and two vials of medicine for Griever venom and that’s about it. I wasn’t expecting that much gender diversity in this movie, since Theresa’s the only girl in the Glade for reasons that aren’t really explained. But at the very least, I was expecting more to her character. We find out that she has a history with Thomas prior to both their arrivals, but her own arrival at the Glade doesn’t have an impact on the story. She could have been cut and the movie would have lost very little. On a more positive note, though Thomas is still a cishet white male, the Gladers are somewhat racially diverse. Minho is Asian, and Alby, the leader, is Black. Sadly, we don’t learn as much about these characters as I wished we would. From how the Wiki page reads, Minho seems like a much more interesting character than how the movie portrayed him. I don’t even think The Maze Runner did a bad job with Minho; I just wanted to see more of him overall.
On the whole, I really did like this movie and I want to learn more about The Maze Runner world now that I’ve watched it. That said, it is very similar to The Hunger Games and other stories that take place in a dystopian future. And though I can’t be certain at this time, the movie doesn’t seem to have stayed very faithful to the book either. If dystopian futures are your thing, you’ll probably enjoy this movie despite its faults. I’d check it out if you haven’t yet.