Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Maze Runner

A young man wakes up in a fast-moving elevator without any recollection of who he is. His name is Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), but he does not remember. He braces himself for what could be the end of his life as the elevator almost hits the roof, except that it stops at the precise moment so as not to cause any unlikely accident. Sunlight blinds him as the hatch opens; a group of boys surrounds him and takes him out to the open. Disoriented, he attempts to run for his life, but his legs bail on him. Having a good look at his surroundings, he later realizes that there is actually nowhere to run. The green patch of land they are occupying is enclosed by really high concrete walls on four sides. One of them opens every morning and closes just around sundown, a period of time in which an elite group of young men get out to explore the maze outside the walls, in a three-year attempt to come up with a map, in hopes that they could still get out. They are called the Maze Runners.

For someone who has not read the book, and thus would have no point of comparison, this film would actually be a thrilling ride. The storytelling is done in a way that you are just as confused as Thomas is, starting from the nerve-wracking trip aboard that elevator all the way to the actual exit of the maze. Information is withheld thanks to the limited knowledge of the characters, which in turn piques your curiosity, allowing you to tolerate around two hours of patiently waiting for answers for curiosity’s sake. Just like them, you are not even aware of the real setting. Is this a post-apocalyptic world? Is this a very bad reality show? Is this all a dream? Is this an alien invasion in a controlled environment? Such curiosities would be lingering in your head throughout the film’s entire run.

The movie is made to be part of a trilogy of sorts, which means that it ends with a cliffhanger, but not without giving you at least a glimpse of what to expect. While some similarities with the more successful Hunger Games franchise have been pointed out, the premise of this series seems to be unique enough to stand on its own. What remains to be similar, though, is the way by which the plot moves forward, which involves a lot of pulse-racing scenes care of the maze itself. But then again, it is the very fact that the main characters here have forced amnesia which makes it all the more interesting; for the mere reason that the moviegoers also get the relevant background information regarding the whole fiasco bit by bit as they do.

It is quite difficult to discuss the themes involved without having to give away a lot as far as the story is concerned. Even so, it is already quite obvious that giant mechanical walls moving on their own already reveals that they are indeed in a controlled environment. The Grievers, huge spider-like creatures which seem to be half-cyborg half-alien and could be found lurking in the maze, are indicative of high technology manipulation. If you factor in the dreams that Thomas has which give him visions of what appear to be scientists garbed in all white, then you would eventually find it easy to infer that this is all an experiment.

Would this mean any loss of interest on your part? Well, not really. If you are the inquisitive type, you would end up wanting answers as to why the heck are they there in the first place. Fortunately, that answer is revealed in the ending, which means you would not have sat there for almost two hours in for nothing.

The Maze Runner is a good attempt to start another franchise involving science fiction for teens. The sad thing is that while there seems to be a consensus on how good the movie actually is, box office returns do not quite reflect it. Perhaps one could blame it on the Hunger Games. Besides, there could only be one dominant book-to-movie franchise at any given time. Perhaps this movie would end up like Divergent did in the box office race, which is a moderate success but not truly phenomenal. As long as they do not screw up the sequels, nobody would really care.

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