Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Maze Runner

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Why don't they just do what I do with mazes?  Work backwards.

The Maze Runner – 4 out of 5

I was totally unaware of the tween novel this film is based on and, when I first saw the trailer, I thought it looked like an adaptation of the smartphone game Temple Run.  Of course, it’s not but the fact the film is still something that was birthed from the tween dystopian subgenre that is all the rage right now I can’t say that my hopes weren't very high for this one.  Sure, the trailer looked pretty cool but it still is adapted from a tween novel and since I haven’t been a tween in quite some time and don’t spend my time reading these types of books, the track record for these releases haven’t been the best for me and so many of them are the same story told with the same formula and all have the same looking white man and female love interests that I was kinda expecting the same shit done with a different coat of pseudo-gritty paint…I was wrong.
Run the fuck out of that maze, kids!

The Maze Runner opens with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) waking up in an elevator with little knowledge of who he is and where he is going.  The elevator exists into a green glade and he is greeted by a bunch of kids not much different in age from him.  Thomas learns that the Glade is surrounded by a complex maze that is explored by the boys called Runners and they are looking for a way out.  However, the Runners must return before nightfall because it is then that the Maze closes its massive doors and no one has survived in the Maze alone at night…due to it being populated by the dangerous creatures called the Grievers.  However, Thomas isn’t like the other kids who have shown up in the Glade and he soon shows the rest of the crew that he has skills that could shake up their reality and may lead them out of Maze and back home.  The only problem is the mystery of who they are and why they are there is far deeper than they are prepared for when the first girl is sent up in the elevator (Kaya Scodelario) and it starts to be realized that Thomas and this girl; Teresa, may have had a hand in why everyone has ended up caught in the Glade and are now at the mercy of the Maze.
"Whoa...are those two Grievers doing it?"

Like I stated in the opening paragraph, my expectations for The Maze Runner were wrong and the initial reaction I had to the cool visuals of the trailer were right.  The film is very entertaining, surprisingly tense, very exciting, wonderfully acted, and the story is very engaging, mysterious, and intriguing.  The film has a few drawbacks but nothing that can’t be easily overlooked.  In fact, the only real downfall I had with the film was a single actor that didn’t really look like he fit with the role he was cast in.  Besides that, the film was far better than I was prepared for and I really look forward for the next installment of the franchise.
Yep, I would totally die in that maze.

Wait a minute...The Glade is actually the Shire!!!
Initially, when the film started, I thought I was going to greatly dislike the fact that the film was seemingly made up of extras you would find on the set of an MTV television series (amusing since one of the actors really is on an MTV show).  All the perfectly in shape bodies, immaculate jaw lines, and product-infused hair styles (how they got hair spray and hair gel in the Glades is beyond me) made me worried that this film was just going to be a generic tween film that put visuals over substance.  Fill your cast with all the smoldering good lookers that will get the little girls and their iPhones in the seats of the theater and all the money will come rolling in.  I was fully prepared to see a bunch of actors who are only good at looking like they are on the verge of throwing out a Blue Steel look and being only good enough for the girls that love them to try and see if they can no longer can’t even and do it long enough to gush over the baby faces splashing all over the screen.  However, I was shocked by how good of actors these kids were. 
A shot from O'Brien's audition reel he sent to Spielberg.
"I can't even with this maze."
Sure, Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario may not be giving off earth-shattering and emotionally powerful performances but they are doing their job quite well for the type of film The Maze Runner is.  However, I have to say that the chemistry that O’Brien shared with Blake Cooper, who played the character Chuck, was pretty decent and came off looking like a legit friendship.  Sure, it’s still evident that most of the cast was brought in because they all look eligible to have their own Tiger Beat covers and photo shoots but when you include Thomas Brodic-Sangster—a Game of Thrones alumni—you see the production is not afraid to include some talent with those girl-crazy creating good looks.  However, I wasn’t a fan of Will Poulter in the film.
Sangster, seen here remembering Hodor.
If you remember my review of We’re the Millers, I talked about how funny I thought Poulter was and how well he played his character.  However, in his role as Galty, I think the production may have picked the wrong guy.  I don’t think Poulter played the character badly; the problem was he didn’t fit the role.  Galty was a character shown trying to maintain order in the Glades and is upset with the fact that Thomas has shown up and is wreaking havoc on that order and is throwing off the balance.  He seeks order to return and see Thomas punished for the threat he poses and, sadly, Poulter didn’t make this character believable for me.  His body language and his voice didn't command authority and I kept wondering why anyone in the Glades would actually listen to him.  He came off like someone who wants to be taken seriously but someone you are too quickly to chuckle at, comment about how it’s adorable they are trying to be tough, and then you just move past them and forget them.  Poulter’s performance wasn’t a deal-breaker and didn’t throw me out of the film, I just had a feeling a better actor could have been chosen and who could have been more appropriate for the role.
The names of those who didn't survive The Glades' Chili Night.
Oh, so that's a Griever.  Yep, fuck that.  Fuck everything
about that thing.
Poulter is really the only complaint I had about the film.  Besides that, I really enjoyed The Maze Runner.  The action in the film was far more intense and exciting than I had any inkling of anticipation for and the film even provides a great ending that really gets the blood pumping for the next film—or gets a persons ire rising because it ends on such a cliff hanger.  However, above a lot of things in this film, one thing that really made The Maze Runner stand out in a sea of cliché and generic tween films that are making up the population of entertainment these days is the fact this film is a lot darker than I was ready for.  While a lot of tween dystopian films want to look gritty and dark, they really are only lightly touched by these elements.  The Maze Runner isn’t afraid to really hit it on the head with the dark aspects and won’t shy away from death and sadness.  Sure, characters die in other tween dystopian films but The Maze Runner actually made the deaths a little more meaningful and, occasionally, horrifying.  The complete lack of fear in making the film more mature than the likes of something like Divergent really made this film stand out and made it very entertaining to watch.
See, Chuck gets it!

With a story that veers away from the typical tween dystopia fiction, a darker and more mature approach, and actors who are far better than what normally is inserted into this subgenre of films, The Maze Runner went past my expectations and made for a great film.  I’ve very interested in seeing the next one when it comes out in ’15.

"This thing says 'Do Not Use Rectally.'  What were you guys doing here before I arrived?"

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