Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘The Maze Runner’ Review: Starring Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter & Aml Ameen

As a film critic, there is nothing that I love more than to read a novel in anticipation for the movie adaptation. The Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent and even the Twilight franchises were just as good if sometimes only better than the actual novel the film was based on.

I always like to try and read the novel before I see the film when I can and I recently read James Dashner’s “The Maze Runner” this summer in anticipation for the movie. The trailers looked intriguing, I enjoy Dylan O’Brien and as a fan of the “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” book trilogies this seemed right up my alley. I really enjoyed the book though I wouldn’t consider it a favorite, but either way I was excited to see the story come to life on the big screen. Unfortunately for me, The Maze Runner is one of those cases where the book is better than he movie.

Very much like the novel, the film opens in the same way, with an elevator rushing upwards towards a metal opening. A panicked boy of about 16 holds his hands up over his eyes and squints when the metal door opens, revealing blinding sunshine and other teenage boys staring at him. Not having any memories before the present day, the boy is introduced to life in the Glade, a place surrounded by tall metal walls to protect life inside from creatures called Grievers that come out at night. Not knowing who put them there, the boys have made a life for themselves inside the walls.


When nightfall comes, after a fight with one of the Glade leaders Gally (Will Poulter), the boy remembers that he is called Thomas (Dylan O’Brien). Thomas is given the rundown by the oldest leader Alby (Aml Ameen), advice from Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and pals around with the Glade’s youngest member Chuck (Blake Cooper). There are several jobs inside the Glade, but Thomas is most interested in being a Runner, someone who runs throughout the maze, which lies outside of the walls looking for a way out. When Thomas learns that escaping the Glade isn’t hopeless, he makes it his priority to convince the lead Runner Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and the others that life is possible outside these walls.

Dylan O’Brien is a perfect choice as the curious and thick-skinned Thomas, while Will Poulter is equally engaging as the brutal and tough Gally. Thomas Brodie-Sangster is just lovely as respectable leader Newt (Has he even aged since 2003’s Love Actually?), while Aml Ameen is great as the strong willed Alby. Kaya Scodelario was completely miscast as Theresa, with her English accent spilling out during her scenes. Who is an interesting and elusive character in the book turned into an annoying over the top damsel-in-distress in the movie.

Thomas and Chuck’s brotherly love relationship was easily the best part of the book and Dylan O’Brien and Blake Cooper work well together on screen, but their relationship in the film was so underdeveloped. There should have been less Thomas and Minho scenes and more Thomas and Chuck ones. This is a relationship similar to the Katniss and Rue relationship in The Hunger Games and either some of their scenes were cut from the final version or the screenwriters made it less of a priority. Give me a whole entire movie about Chuck and I’d be thrilled, that’s how important of a character he is in the novel. Some of Thomas and Chuck’s best moments weren’t included in the film, which was a bit of disservice to Chuck’s character.

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The special effects and CGI creation of the villainous Grievers were especially detailed which couldn’t have been an easy task since Dashner gave us clues to what they looked like, but let the reader envision them with their own imagination. The scene where Thomas enters the maze for the first time is nothing short of heroic and shocking and was every bit I felt when reading it in the novel, but the action sequences that followed didn’t put me on the edge of my seat like I was hoping for.

The three screenwriters get a few scenes right, and maybe since Thomas’ inner dialogue can’t be translated on screen, the movie suffered for it. Plus all in all there were several changes from the book included the entire third act being completely out of left field.

Fans of Dashner’s young adult novel will most likely enjoy the movie, but it’s hard to say whether or not they will love it. The fluidity that the novel had was not translated on screen as well, but O’Brien’s performance as Thomas should exceed fan expectations and the final scene makes us curious for the next films to come.

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