|Film review: The Maze Runner|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Friday, 10 October 2014 07:16|
Director: Wes Ball
In 1997, Vincenzo Natali's Cube was released. A dumb, trashy sci-fi that was high on concept but low on brains, it was a gloriously gory bit of B-movie fun. Today, in 2014, The Maze Runner is released. A dumb, trashy sci-fi that's high on concept but low on brains, it is also fun - but in a different way.
Based on the young adult novels, of which there are - inevitably - three, it tells the story of a group of kids who wake up to find themselves in a gigantic maze. Why? They don't know. Who are they? They can't remember. How to get out? That's anybody's guess.
But one day, that anybody arrives: Thomas (Dylan O'Brien). That's where our story begins. Thomas immediately starts breaking the rules by which the makeshift society operates. And, shortly afterwards, people start to die. Then, most shocking of all, a girl arrives - Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) - and she knows who Thomas is.
Director Wes Ball sets the fast pace by sending us up a supply elevator with Thomas to enter "The Glade", the green haven at the maze's middle. Unfortunately, the script (by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin) also sets the bar low with shonky dialogue and a horde of clichéd characters. There's the stoic leader who knows more than he lets on (Aml Ameen); the quiet but loyal second in command (the always likeable Thomas Sangster); the aggressive rival to the throne who doesn't like our hero (a very physical turn from Will Poulter); and the chubby, kind one who you expect to kick then bucket any minute. He's called Chuck.
Once we get into the maze proper, though, things step up a gear: the stony walls, metallic shafts and changing layout makes for enjoyably tense set pieces, while the grievers (strange, semi-mechanical monsters who patrol the maze) are genuinely creepy. The explanation for it all may lack the substance of great sci-fi, but The Maze Runner isn't about that: it's about putting you in the thick of a labyrinth and making you squirm. For older audiences, those attempts may appear laughable, but for younger adults, it achieves that same sensation Vincenzo Natali managed 17 years ago. A solid gateway to an adult genre, it's nice to see someone making trashy sci-fi B-movies for teens, even if the movie does get a little lost itself. Talk of chaos and disorder within a micro-civilisation doesn't skew as deep as The Maze Runner would like, but when it comes to mazes and running, it knows its stuff. Lord of the Flies? Not quite. Cube for kids? Go on then.