The Maze Runner

Posted on September 18, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Underage drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Extended sci-fi action, peril and violence with many disturbing images, including monsters, dead bodies, apparent suicide, and wounds, many characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: September 19, 2014
Date Released to DVD: December 15, 2014 ASIN: B00OY7YPGK

maze runnerYes, it’s another dystopic YA trilogy (actually, there’s a fourth volume, a prequel), and yes, only a teenager with fabulous cheekbones can save the day. But “The Maze Runner” is not a lesser repeat. It is a worthy addition to the genre, an absorbing drama with surprising turns and even more surprising resonance to contemporary conflicts.

Our main character learns what is going on around him at the same time we do. He awakens with a gasp in an elevator cage hurtling to the surface. His memory is gone. He does not know who he is or where he is. When the elevator stops, he finds that he is in a wilderness, the entire population adolescent boys. They call it The Glade. For three years, one boy has arrived by that same elevator every month, along with some supplies in a box marked WCKD. We learn along with the boy, called “Greenie” by the others because he is new, that they have created a society with rules and assigned tasks. The Glade is surrounded by a massive maze that re-arranges itself every night. One group of boys, called Runners,” explore the maze every day to try to map its variations and figure out an escape path. They have to be out of the maze at night because horrible monsters called The Grievers come out. No one who was in the maze at night has ever survived. A “sting” from one of the monsters is toxic, causing madness. The other boys, led by Alby (Aml Ameen of “The Butler”), introduce the greenie to their world and tell him he will remember his name. “It’s the one thing they let us keep.” He does remember. His name is Thomas (Dylan O’Brien).

The boys understand the concept of parents but have no memory of ever having had any. Chuck (Blake Cooper), one of the youngest and most tender-hearted of the boys in The Glade, confides to Thomas that he has carved a little totem for the parents he cannot remember but hopes to be returned to some day.

Alby explains the rules to Thomas. Everyone must do his part. Never harm another Glader. “None of this works unless we have trust.” Never go beyond these walls. But those rules are based on the past. Thomas’ arrival signals some changes. Or did he create those changes? That is an issue that will be debated and then fought over.

“You’re not like the others,” someone says to Thomas. “You’re curious.” Thomas says that if they have not figured a way out in three years, it is time to try something new. Some of the others agree with him, especially after the elevator arrives with someone new — a girl — with a note that says she will be the last one.

A little bit “Lord of the Flies” (boys creating their own society, the struggle between animal instincts and human justice), a little bit “Hunger Games” (teenagers used as pawns by adults), it still manages to bring some imaginative and provocative themes and create distinctive characters. The maze itself is stunning. Production designer Marc Fisichella and the entire sound team have created a maze that is more than an obstacle course or a metaphor. The conflicts as the boys try to maintain some control in the midst of an environment that, like the maze, shifts and constricts are absorbing. The result is a film that you do not need to be a teenager or a YA fan to appreciate.

Parents should know that this film has sci-fi-style action, peril and violence, guns, knives, many young characters injured and killed, suicide, scary and disgusting monsters, some disturbing images, some strong language, and teen drinking.

Family discussion: Why do Thomas and Gally have different ideas about what to do? What was the maze supposed to test?

If you like this, try: the book series and other dystopian films like “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent”

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Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy Stories about Teens

14 Replies to “The Maze Runner”

  1. Umm… I don’t want to sound rude or anything, but you had some mistakes in this article. The monsters are called Grievers and it’s WICKED not WCKD. Sorry if you’re offended by this. Just wanted to point it out.

    1. Gracious, Professional Fangirl, I am never anything but grateful when people correct my mistakes. I will fix the name of the monsters but when you see the film you will see that the markings say WCKD. Thanks very much and please write any time with questions or comments!

      1. Yes, I have watched the movie and have found out that it says WCKD. I just said WICKED because it said that in the book.

          1. Well, like kinda, because I know that they couldn’t take the whole book and make it a movie that is only a few hours, but they did keep the important scenes (especially the scenes in the ending, which I won’t name, sorry I don’t want to spoil anything). So yeah, I think it was still great and James Dashner HIMSELF said that he loved the movie, as well.

          2. Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments (and for avoiding spoilers) — I agree entirely. I saw James Dasher with the director and cast at Comic-Con and was very impressed.

  2. Oh, and plus I loved this article! You were accurate on this book’s plot and you where correct about the age viewers should be.

  3. I didn’t get the movie that’s why I was surprise about the phase 2. The movie was great in the beginning since it can make you think, but I was confused how it ends. I still don’t get the story so I’m planning to read the book. Anyway, please add me on facebook, and will discuss everything there. Thanks!

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