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“The Maze Runner” gives viewers the runaround

(PHOTO CREDIT: GAGE SKIDMORE)
Dylan O’Brien, above, stars in “The Maze Runner.” He is best known for his role as Stiles in “Teen Wolf” on MTV. (PHOTO CREDIT: GAGE SKIDMORE)

At its core, the whole purpose of a maze is to bewilder and stump the uninformed through the puzzle of navigating from point A to B. There is a clearly defined starting point, goal to be reached and various traps and dead ends to impede one’s progress.

In this sense, “The Maze Runner” certainly earns its title, as the film is riddled with various characters, plot points and moments that lead to nothing, but ultimately come together as a charming, if not a bit messy, film.

The story this time is that the cast consists of a community exclusively made up of young boys with no memory of their past lives, save for their names, who have established a small society in a forest glade.

The problem lies in that the glade is surrounded on all sides by a gigantic circular maze defended by biotechnical monsters known as “Grievers.” This causes a natural split within the society of people who want to risk their lives to explore and escape the maze and those who simply want to survive.

Naturally, all of this is thrown into chaos after the arrival of our hero, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), who simultaneously has a level of curiosity that inspires others to abandon safety and background knowledge regarding the maze itself.

Like nearly every major release not based on a comic-book these days, “The Maze Runner” is based on the first book in a trilogy of young adult novels by James Dashner.

Because of this, the comparisons to “The Hunger Games” are impossible to ignore. Yet, while the two films share the same visual style, “The Maze Runner” is much more in line with “Lord of the Flies” thematically.

This does not mean the film should be dismissed visually though, as it is a technically beautiful movie. Director Wes Ball has a great eye for keeping a constant sense of scale.

We never get the feeling that the characters are in control, but rather, that everything is dictated by the maze.   

It also helps that the visual effects are top-notch, especially the design of the Grievers, which truly give of a sense of dread. In fact, the first scene where we really see a Griever and get to explore the maze is one of the films strongest points.

Less impressive are the actors (if you feel inclined to call them that) of the film. There is virtually no character development at all throughout the film, making everyone one-dimensional conduits of a singular expression.

Will Poulter plays the angry one, Blake Cooper is always hopeful, Ami Ameen serves as leader and Kaya Scodelario is the girl.

Seriously, Scodelario’s character brings literally nothing to the film except for a plot twist that consists of a character shouting, “It’s a girl!”

To be fair, all of the actors do a admirable job. However it is equally impressive and confusing how this big budget film is made with the biggest actor attached is Thomas Brodie-Sangster (“Game of Thrones,” and more importantly “Nanny McPhee” fame).

There is a lot to like in “The Maze Runner.” It has an interesting set-up and is visually exciting, but  could use some stronger actors and characters.

It is a fascinating movie that left me wondering what is next in the story, something that many movies fail to capture.

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