THE MAZE RUNNER is the latest in a series of dystopian action films aimed at the teenage market and adapted from successful Young Adult fiction franchises. As with HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT we find ourselves in a post apocalyptic America where teenagers are pitted against each other in a kind of mad game, society riven by factions and controlled by some kind of overlord. In this case, the protagonist isn't a girl but a boy, Thomas (Teen Wolf's Dylan O'Brien) who wakes up to find himself inside a Glade enclosed by the Maze. A society of Lost Boys explains the rules to him - each person has a role in society, and the runners get to go inside the Maze and find food, although to be trapped overnight is to be killed by the Grievers. A girl called Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) is sent into the mix with two vials of anti-venom and a jolting Big Reveal in the final 30 minutes of the film. Be assured that if you're familiar with the genre, it won't be a big surprise.
What the plot lacks in originality or genuine scares, it makes up for in good acting. The mostly British lead cast sport know how to sell the complex emotions of abandonment, brute cruelty, camaraderie and mistrust. Thomas Brodie Sangster (GAME OF THRONES) is very sympathetic as one of the Glade's leaders, and Will Poulter is, as ever, the most captivating of the actors in a tricky unsympathetic role. The movie has a far lower budget than HUNGER GAMES or DIVERGENT but this isn't a problem. It is beautifully designed and the lack of big show piece effects focusses the audience's attention on the characters.
Overall the familiarity of the set-up is a bit of a problem, as is the occasionally hammy dialogue. But I'm sufficiently interested to see what's next to welcome the inevitable sequel.
THE MAZE RUNNER has a running time of 113 minutes and is rated PG-13. The movie is on global release.