You know that adaptation of a young-adult novel about a young man trying to escape a world of dystopian uniformity? No, not that one. Not that one either. If the first reviews of “The Maze Runner” agree on one thing, it’s that we’ve seen this story before, especially recently. Like “The Giver,” James Dashner’s source novel is full of Arbitrarily Capitalized Nouns; like “The Hunger Games,” it features a mysterious quasi-sport that doubles as a blunt metaphor for survival; and of course it’s part of a planned trilogy. Dylan O’Brien (MTV’s “Teen Wolf”) plays Thomas, a young man who finds himself, memory wiped clear, in The Glade, an enclosed, nearly all-male compound surrounded by (can you guess?) a Maze patrolled by mechanical creatures called Grievers. Naturally, he hatches a plan to escape, secrets are revealed, and so on. To judge from the reviews, first-time feature director Wes Ball does a reasonable job of bringing the material to life, but it’s not enough to counter the Sameness that’s begun to bedevil the entire dystopian YA subgenre.
“The Maze Runner” opens in theaters on September 19.
Reviews of “The Maze Runner”
Ella Taylor, Variety
As world-creation YA pictures go, “The Maze Runner” feels refreshingly low-tech and properly story-driven, Though the pacing drags a bit in the first hour and there’s not much character development unless you count the cast’s bicep-building hours at the gym, Wes Ball’s feature debut builds solidly to an exciting battle finale and a big reveal that doubles as coming-of-age parable.
Justin Lowe, Hollywood Reporter
“The Maze Runner’s” similarities to well-known literary works (“Nineteen Eighty-Four” and “Lord of the Flies” among them) and speculative fiction thrillers (“Logan’s Run,” “Battle Royale” and “The Hunger Games,” for instance) are almost more reassuring than disconcerting. In fact, it’s this recurrent sense of familiarity rather than any distinct originality that makes the film consistently engaging, although never outright challenging.
John Hazelton, Screen Daily
The story doesn’t provide much scope for relationships or conflicts between characters, but first time feature director Wes Ball manages to spin out the intrigue — the creators of the Glade, and their purpose, are only revealed late in the action — and he provides the film with a fairly exciting climax as Thomas and co battle their way out of the Maze.
Alonso Duralde, the Wrap
“The Maze Runner” has “Lord of the Flies” (stripped of all socio-political context) and even a bit of“The Cabin in the Woods” in its DNA, but the progression of the plot drags it toward being just another YA adaptation. For its first half or so, “The Maze Runner” tells a captivating tale of survival and weaves a potentially interesting mystery. Once its path become clear, however, you realize this is a puzzle you’ve worked out before.