Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Maze Runner

Did you know that The Maze Runner was a book? I didn't. At least not until I looked the movie up on Wikipedia.
So, like Ender's Game I went into this movie entirely blind. And I'm not entirely sure what to think of the film.
On the one hand there are a few minor issues with the cast, plot and pacing that I'd bet the book didn't have. On the other hand, I wonder how much they chopped up, rearranged and added in that wasn't entirely necessary. For instance, there's a clip at the end that struck me as completely useless and possibly an attempt to drum up anticipation for the sequel, The Scorch Trials. It's entirely speculation on my part, of course, but I've seen that kind of thing in a lot of movies adapted from books, where they take a big reveal from the second book and stick it into the first movie.
I'll find out if I'm right or wrong when I read the original novel of course. All of what I'm saying about the adaptation of book to film is going to be speculation, since I would prefer to read the book and verify facts for myself instead of looking things up online.
Anyways, looking on Wikipedia I've found out that The Maze Runner was shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Compared to, say, New York City or Hollywood, that's essentially in my backyard. Hell, I didn't even know the movie was being filmed that close to me. If it was, I might have auditioned for a role.
Probably not, but it's nice to imagine :-P
Anyways, enough with the jokes, let's actually talk about the movie.
On a budget of $34 million, I feel that this movie managed to do a better job than the first Hunger Games movie did with its $78 million budget. The Maze Runner film seems a little more organic than The Hunger Games film did, but that's speaking from a film perspective, rather than an adaptation perspective, and I'll have to compare the movie to the novel later on to see what all the movie has improved, made worse, or adapted straight up.
Now, after that little tidbit, let's talk about the characters and setting.
The movie takes place inside of a squared-off area inside of the titular maze known as "The Glade"
Our hero, the one of the titular Maze Runners (Pictured above) is named Thomas. He enters the Glade through an elevator, where all of the boys in the glade have come from. The leader of the group is named Alby, played by Aml Ameen, and he shows Thomas around the Glade, introducing him to the cast of the movie.
There's Newt, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, the voice of Ferb Fletcher in Phineas and Ferb, which I really like, and Jojen Reed and Donald Clarke in Game of Thrones and Death of a Superhero, respectively.
Neither of which I've actually watched. But I do have to say that I really liked his performance in this film, and I think he'd make a great Peter Parker. He looks the part, he's the right height, and seems like he could do a good job in the role. Imagine that, right?
Anyways, aside from them, there are a ton of other boys in the Glade, and a few of them even have names!
There's Alby, who's the head enforcer in the Glade, and also a bit of a dick and an idiot all in one. If I had to guess, I'd say his character likely took a bit of a hit in adaptation, since he's a bit cartoony in his nature. Then again, sometimes there are characters that are as cartoony in their original form as they are in their adapted form, so I could be wrong.
Now, let's talk about something I mentioned earlier in the review, the casting.
Most of the cast is fine, as they seem to have the right builds and appearances for the situation they're in.
Except for one kid. His name is Chuck, as portrayed by Blake Cooper.
Chuck has been in the Glade for about a month by the time he's introduced, but he's still pretty chubby. Yeah, he's young, but he should be working hard enough that he wouldn't have much fat on him.
It makes about as much sense as the fat dude in Revolution Aaron Pittman being fat as well. Actually, it makes slightly more sense, since Pittman had been in a post-apocalyptic world for a good decade and a half at the very least.
That's not the say that Cooper doesn't give a good performance, he does. And I like him. Hell, the kid got the role when he contacted the films director, Wes Ball (No relation to Uwe Boll as far as I can tell) through Twitter. I appreciate that! I think that's a cool thing to have happen! I just figure he should have been put on a diet and workout routine before they started filming so that he'd click a little more with the look of the rest of the cast.
The last boy in The Glade that actually has a name and a purpose is Minho, played by Ki Hong Lee. He's in charge of the titular Maze-Runners, and winds up being another really cool character.

Now, time to talk complaints.
For some reason, the kids in the Glade speak very cryptically about pretty much everything. It's like they were purposefully messing with Thomas. I hope it wasn't like this in the book, because if it was, they should have changed it. No matter how this weird little sequence came about, it shouldn't have existed in the first place. You could easily rewrite the situation so that it makes a little more logical sense.
First off, there are a few lines of dialogue that need to be cut, and a lot more that need to be altered. Have the rest of the boys tell Thomas more stuff outright, and some things not at all. And have Thomas ask a few different questions than he does.
If the other characters simply cannot answer someones questions, then you either need to have them flat out not know, find a good reason for them to not answer immediately (like some kind of event that interrupts the answer) or just make the character not even ask that question. It's that simple!
I don't know how people keep making that mistake when writing stuff. I see it everywhere, and I'm sick of it.
If one character does it, then that's fine. Hell, if the characters doing that are revealed to be deliberately screwing with the one asking the questions, I'm okay with that! But there's zero evidence produced in the movie that the boys in The Glade are messing with Thomas in any way. I wouldn't be surprised, but it just doesn't make any sense why some of the characters would do that to Thomas, considering some of the stuff they held back could have gotten him killed.
And then there's the fact that I'm not sure if some of the events are supposed to take place over the course of just three days, or a longer time. The reason I bring that up is because some of the characters seem to bond a little faster than they probably should over the course of three days.
That could be explained by hints of memory from their previous lives, but since that's never brought up, it's impossible to tell.
That's pretty much it for things that I noticed that seemed off, so now it's time to talk effects.
For the most part they look good. It wasn't until the very end that I saw some truly awful effects in the form of blood effects that are CGI'd in, rather than being practically produced. They look like crap and don't make much sense in comparison to the other (Very good) effects in the movie.
In the end though, it's a good movie. It's not as good as some films, but it manages to capture some movie-magic and save itself from being a boring affair.
All in all, I think it's good, and I think this series might be worth following. While it has some flaws that could have easily been ironed out, it doesn't have enough flaws to make the movie a waste of time.
I give it a 7.6* rating.
At the moment I don't have next weeks article planned, so you'll just have to check back next Sunday to see what I've decided to cover, or I might announce it over on the official Facebook page.

Image from