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‘Maze Runner’ cuts confusing path through commonplace dystopia

Kaya Scodelario, from foreground left, Dylan O’Brien, Ami Ameen and Jacob Latimore appear in a scene from “The Maze Runner.”
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Like the protagonist of “The Maze Runner,” the audience is thrown into the mix confused and disoriented.

Unlike him, we never really get our bearings. Wes Ball’s film version of the popular young-adult novel by James Dashner never makes much sense. Perhaps it would make more sense if you have read the book, but until they start handing out free copies before the movie starts, that cannot be a requirement.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is jolted awake inside a freight elevator, which delivers him to the Glade, a big field where other boys greet him. He has no idea where he is or why he is there — and at this point he’s not even Thomas; he can’t remember his name. That memory will come back in a couple of days, the others tell Thomas, but that’s the only one.

Alby (Ami Ameen), the leader of the group, lays out the situation: They’ve been there three years. They’re actually at the center of a huge maze; presumably if they could work out the path, it would lead to their freedom. Trouble is, the maze changes shape every night.

Still, every day the Runners, the fastest and strongest of the boys, run through it, trying to map its paths. They have to do their work during the day, because at night the Grievers, giant scorpion-looking monster-machine hybrids, roam around the maze (giant doors shut every night to protect the Glade from them). No one who has ever spent the night inside the maze has lived to tell the story.

Every boy has his place, his job, a role; order is what makes the whole thing work. But no one knows why they’re there. Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), along with Alby, befriends Thomas, but Gally (Will Poulter) is suspicious of him. With good reason, maybe. Thomas is not content to just go along with the order of things. He wants to find out why they’re there and escape. Now.

Suspicions are further aroused when a runner, stung by a Griever, attacks Thomas and says it’s “all your fault.”

Dylan O’Brien appears in a scene from “The Maze Runner.”

All very mysterious, and vaguely intriguing, because we are operating under the impression that all will be explained. When Thomas, going to the aid of Alby, manages to kill a Griever, he’s not hailed as a hero by everyone. Instead Gally wants him punished.

So a classic power struggle is building. Then one day the elevator arrives and a girl is inside, unconscious, with a note that says she is the “last one ever.” When the girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) awakens, she seems to recognize Thomas, though neither of them is sure how.

It’s all leading to a showdown between Thomas and Gally, of course, and an escape attempt. And we do eventually find out who put everyone in the Glade and why. Sort of. It’s probably not a spoiler to say that the answer is, “Huh?” Like far too much of the rest of the movie, the motives, rattled off in quick fashion, are nearly incomprehensible. The explanations feel crammed in, as if they might take too much screen time away from the attractive cast (remember the target audience here).

The look of the film is impressive enough, but the performances are merely OK. The same goes for the story. Young-adult tales of a dystopian future are increasingly common. Although O’Brien has the requisite heartthrob looks, it’s not enough to make “The Maze Runner” stand out in a crowded field. Naturally, in the end it’s all a setup for another installment. Maybe the next one will make more sense.

‘The Maze Runner’

Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequence of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images.

Star rating: ★½

Written By

Avi Adkins is a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. With years of experience in the field, Adkins has established himself as a respected figure in journalism.

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