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‘The Maze Runner’ Review: A Thrilling Survival Story Starring Dylan O’Brien

maze runner

“Day one, Greenie. Rise and shine.”

Before I get started on actually reviewing the film, I have to bring something up.

No, this is not just “any other YA film/book series.” A lot of people have taken to comparing this film, along with many others, to other YA or survival films, mainly to The Hunger Games. Although this is considered very high praise to be compared to another film that has done so well, comparison is a double-edged sword. When people hear this, they expect the film, in this case The Maze Runner, to play out exactly like whatever it’s being compared to. It’s not just “another Hunger Games.” If you thought that, we clearly did not watch the same film. They are both incredible films, by themselves. They do not need to be in some sort of competition. There doesn’t have to be one overwhelming winner above any their genre.

You never hear people say “It’s just another horror film” or “Just another superhero movie.” There’s a stigma that seems to be attached to the hip of dystopian/survival/YA films, especially now when they’re very prevalent. If they could just stand on their own, each individually, I feel that people might feel differently about these films. The point of critiquing this film is not to compare it to others from its same genre. The point is to analyze the film by itself, which is what I intend and implore others to do.

“Welcome to the Glade.”

Last night was my second time watching the film, the first during Comic-Con at an early screening, and I was just as blown away with the film as I was the first time. Overall, the film was superbly acted, cinematically gorgeous, chill-inducing, and (I’m probably the hundredth person to use this joke) absolutely a-maze-ing. (I’m sorry, it had to be done.)

The film, based on the best-selling book series by James Dashner, follows a teenage boy Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) who wakes up to find himself in a rickety lift that brings him into a mysterious world filled with other boys, most who have hopes of escaping. The only possible means of escaping though, is by finding a way out through the maze. This is the best time as any to bring up the visual effects and cinematography that were done in creating the maze. Wes Ball and his team truly brought the Maze and its elements to life. The Maze was horrifying and anxiety-inducing. You’re not just watching Thomas and Minho – a Runner of the Maze – run through it, you’re experiencing it. I was quite alright with the changes they made from the book to the film, but by far my favorite was being able to see the Maze walls change positions right before our very eyes. It just added on to the suspense the film already had. It showed that anything could happen in this Maze.

“No one has ever survived a night in the maze.”

I also have to give a lot of credit to John Paesano who created the soundtrack to the film. His music completely envelopes you even further into the story. Each one of his soundtracks reflects the scene in which it is placed in perfectly. Not to mention the sound effects the Grievers make are terrifying. Grievers – the creatures who inhabit the Maze at night and who have taken the lives of many boys who have come before them – were also created perfectly. Seemingly like they plucked them straight out of the book. I won’t explain them too much, in order to let you get a chance to see them for yourself, but they are very frightening, to say the least.

“Everything started changing the moment you showed up.”

What completely brings the film together, in my opinion, is the completely raw and talented acting. We all knew Dylan O’Brien was immensely talented from watching him on Teen Wolf, but he just brings it to a completely new level in this film. Without giving too much away, he showed the wide array of emotions Thomas feels with the knowledge of his past life and his new life coming together, specifically when Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) arrives as the only girl and the “last one ever.”

I definitely feel changes were made to the relationship, but possibly for the better. They’ve prided themselves on not having a romantic relationship in the film, which I agree with because it’s not necessary. And yet, at the same time, I feel that Teresa unfortunately was not fully developed. Maybe I’m only saying this because she’s one my favorite characters, but she’s incredibly complex and her past with WCKD was not as shown as Thomas’. I truly hope her character continues to be explored in the upcoming films, which is completely possible without romance added into the mix. Plus, Kaya is amazing in everything she does so she can portray her perfectly.

Other standouts were Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Gally (Will Poulter), Alby (Aml Ameen) and Chuck (Blake Cooper). I could say a lot about how they’re each so talented, but in whole, they brought such diversity to the Gladers. We’ve got Gally, who is essentially the antagonist, and yet you can’t hate him. There are times when it seems crazy you wouldn’t, but the way Will delivered the character, really made you feel for him. You understood his insecurities about escaping through the maze and living their life peacefully in the Glade. I thought Minho was a lot more mature and serious than in the novel, while Alby was a much kinder leader than in the books. I think these slight changes in characterization though, did end up helping the plot by making it simpler for the general audience to follow. As for Newt and Chuck, they were identical to the book, so no issues there.

“We get out now or we die trying.”

I am incredibly proud of this film and for everyone involved in it. It’s not a film you would ever want to miss. It never pauses, it never lags. Something exciting, frightening, or emotionally moving always happens scene after scene after scene. If you have nothing to watch this weekend, and even if you do, go watch the film, but prepare yourself to be immersed in a thrilling survival story that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat up until the end.