Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Maze Runner [Movie Review]

The Doctor Who series 8 review has been postponed. It will be up on Monday. My apologies. However, it has been postponed to review yet another of these movies being made from wildly popular YA book series. Somehow, and this is most likely a good thing, I've never read a single one of them.

First thing: Your movie missed its release date by 7 months.
Also, the American system for dates sucks. Why write it as
M/D/Y when D/M/Y makes more sense?
That will be an important fact to remember. I've never read a single one of these YA books (and if somehow you do not know what YA stands for, just google it).

4 out of 5 stars
That is one of the most unexpected ratings I have ever given. I walk into movies based on YA-books with a very low expectation rate. I mainly go to see these types out of morbid curiosity. Well, and the fact that most being made into movies are somewhat science fiction, and I am a sucker for sci-fi.   

I mean the Hunger Games series has some potential. I'm not sold on it completely, mainly because the cinematography in the first movie was so abysmal. Thankfully, The Maze Runner does not suffer from poor camera work.

"Despite all my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage."
That is a good thing.

Oh, before we go any further, there may be some slight spoilers in here, so take care. 

The introduction to the movie was solid gold 'in media res.' You are thrown immediately into an uncomfortable situation, lost, confused. You can really get the characters feelings at that moment.

Impressive set design. However... the walls are too short.
Lets quickly cover some other good points. The plot is, for the most part, a nice straight forward linear story. There are hints that there is something going on (as if a bunch of 'teens,' who are all 21+, stranded inside a massive maze is not clue enough).

Meet the cast of Goonies! I mean, The Maze Runner!
The acting was good enough for the parts they played. They made me feel as if I was watching a group of teens who grew up a little too fast. Chuck, the heavy set kid portrayed by Blake Cooper, really pulled off a solid performance. He played his part very well. I am withholding my comments about the single female role, as she really did not get a whole ton of screen time.

Additionally, despite the incredible number of characters, you do get to know the half dozen important ones well enough. I can even list most of their names without the page flipping .gif above. That is a pretty good feat. 

The movie was also paced very well. The time and story went by at a good clip, never really leaving you bored or shiftless. Nor were you ever lost by the movie going to fast... until maybe the very end.

Oh! Here's a killer bonus and awesome bit. There was no tacked on, completely plot point devoid, romance. There was no romance at all, and I was afraid that there would be. What with this reverse harem going on, there was a fear. There was also a fear that they would pull the cliched thing of every guy suddenly wants her cause its the only girl they've seen. Instead they play it off more as the guys are confused. Which I find more appropriate.  

There were some flaws in the movie.

The first one is this: the Walls of the maze needed to be taller. They were impressive, but in a few scenes you see that the old growth nearly reaches the top, and a tower the 'teens' built could have been almost as tall as the walls... if they had built it by the walls instead of in the middle of the glade. This may seem like a minor gripe (since I have no idea how tall the walls in the book were said to be), but the walls could have been more menacing and impressive.

It can be annoying if the movie keeps repeating something that is immediately clear to book readers, but not first time watchers. In this case it was the phrase "Wicked it good." I got it, I can add in left out letters... but really. The phrase is obviously meant as double entendre, but the problem is that the second meaning is never used. At no point does the movie suggest that a wicked act is good, unless of course you count Thomas's entering the maze without permission to be wicked (more like mildly rebellious, somewhat compassionate, and stupid all wrapped up into one nice Thomas sized ball). 

Oh, and as a mild aside. What is up with the idea that bravery = stupidity that so many of these movies show. This one is a bit less so than others actually. But think back to Divergent (I'm sorry I'm making you do that), or even Harry Potter (which is a series I rather adore). Stupid acts are confused with brave acts. Ok, I'll admit that by the purest definition of Bravery: "the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening : the quality or state of being brave" (from Merriam Webster), stupidity does sort of qualify. But bravery need not be stupid. It would be nice to see this more often... the smart bravery.

Guess that was longer than I thought.

My final gripe, and honestly... it is not that bad, but please do not overload your endings too much. Thankfully this movie did not pull an AI. That movie ended a full three times before the credits rolled. This one does not really end, but it tricks you into thinking that you have reached the end. So I credit it, and at the same time think they could have done some additional clues earlier. Maybe that was something lost in the translation from book to movie. I will most likely never know.

So. My final result. I'm sticking by the four stars. The movie was much better than I imagined going in. I'll be seeing the sequel. Oh, come on, you did not even need to see the ending to know that there will be a sequel. Nor did you need to know that there were more books (I actually did not until just before writing this blog). It is a YA movie, they make them so that they can produce a series and get people to come back every year. Well, this time it worked. I'm curious to see how this all unfolds, and what exactly they are going to do after this movie.

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