The Hunger Games begins with... oh, what? Right. Ok. Hmmm. The Maze Runner begins with our hero, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), violently awaking in an elevator that's heading in just one direction: up. He doesn't remember anything about who he is or how he got there. When the elevator finally reaches its destination we are greeted by a group of teenagers, led by Alby (Aml Ameen), who've all previously been through the same situation as Thomas. Upon leaving his rickety vehicle, Thomas and crew are revealed to be trapped inside a seemingly never-ending maze. Their goal; survive.
Where to begin with this movie? It's a mess, making it hard to collect my thoughts in a reasonable order. When the film begins it's intriguing. It begins to set itself apart from all the other young adult survival type movies that we've had in recent years; The Hunger Games, Divergent etc. There's distinct characters, each with different contributions to the overall scheme. After this, the film goes downhill. There are some great sequences and there are some suspenseful moments, but these rarely occur at their camp. In fact, the camp sequences are the most uninteresting moments of the film. It's when the characters go into the maze that the thrills resume. These scenes were incredible. They're brilliantly directed, full of tension and fast in pace. It saddens me to say that they only fill up a small portion of the film.
The film's screenplay is where it needs its greatest improvements. Perhaps the book is to blame for this negativity, but I'm not reviewing the book. The film's dialogue comes off forced and cheesy. It really is a special moment when you hear a line of dialogue that hasn't been said a hundred times over in previous books, TV shows and films. What makes this undeniably terrible dialogue even worse is the performances that give it. Dylan O'Brien gives a decent enough performance for what the film is worth, but even he's not amazing. Let's just be grateful he isn't as bad as the supporting cast. Ignoring that most of the characters are here solely to provide exposition, the performances are mostly unwatchable. I feel biased towards Thomas Brodie-Sangster's performance as I'm such a huge fan of Game of Thrones, but even he's slacking off a bit. The screenplay and performances mixed make for unintentionally laughable situations, some of which that are supposedly meant to be crucial or dramatic moments. This film is further burdened by its many sub-plots or unexplained occurrences. Perhaps that's part of the mystery, or perhaps that's just slack filmmaking.
Unpredictability isn't this film's strongest suit either. If you ignore this film's strong opening and thrilling maze sequences, there really isn't a lot there. It's an unoriginal, boring and highly predictable mess. Right from the get-go I could figure out what was going on. It isn't the most predictable film I've seen all year, but I wasn't doubting my suspicions either. The film decides to show certain shots or pronounce allusive dialogue that's all too revealing. It's played off as unsuspicious, and to the untrained eye it may just be, but it seemed to me like all too much of a tease. That isn't the biggest tease this film offers either as the third act is a prolonged setup for the sequel that's currently moving ahead with preproduction. God, here we go again.
To sum up, The Maze Runner's maze sequences are redeeming, but with a terrible, predictable and unoriginal screenplay, mostly bad performances, too many sub-plots and many dumb and unexplained occurrences, The Maze Runner is a bore.
2 1/2 Stars