VOD film review: The Maze Runner
Running through mazes8
Ivan Radford | On 04, Feb 2015
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Sangster
Watch The Maze Runner online in the UK: Amazon Prime / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
In 1997, Vincenzo Natali’s Cube was released. A dumb, trashy sci-fi that was high on concept but low on brains, it was a gloriously gory bit of B-movie fun. This week, The Maze Runner arrives on VOD. A dumb, trashy sci-fi that’s high on concept but low on brains, it is also fun – but in a different way.
Based on the young adult novels, of which there are – inevitably – three, it tells the story of a group of kids who wake up to find themselves in a gigantic maze. Why? They don’t know. Who are they? They can’t remember. How to get out? That’s anybody’s guess.
But one day, that anybody arrives: Thomas (Dylan O’Brien). This is where our story begins. Thomas immediately starts breaking the rules by which the makeshift society operates. And, shortly afterwards, people start to die. Then, most shocking of all, a girl arrives – Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) – and she knows who Thomas is.
Director Wes Ball sets the fast pace by sending us up in a supply elevator with Thomas to enter “The Glade”, the green haven at the maze’s middle. Unfortunately, the script (by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin) also sets the bar low with occasionally on-the-nose dialogue and a horde of clichéd characters. There’s the stoic leader who knows more than he lets on (Aml Ameen); the quiet but loyal second-in-command (the always likeable Thomas Sangster); the aggressive rival to the throne who doesn’t like our hero (a very physical turn from Will Poulter); and the chubby, kind one you expect to kick the bucket any minute. He’s called Chuck.
Once we get into the maze proper, though, things step up a gear: the stony walls, metallic shafts and changing layout makes for enjoyably tense set pieces, while the grievers (strange monsters who patrol the maze) are genuinely creepy.
The intriguing explanation for it all may lack the jaw-dropping feel of great sci-fi, but The Maze Runner isn’t about that: it’s about putting you in the thick of a labyrinth and making you squirm. For younger adults, it achieves that same sensation Vincenzo Natali managed 17 years ago. A solid gateway to an adult genre, it’s nice to see someone making trashy sci-fi B-movies for teens, even if the movie arguably gets a little lost itself. Talk of chaos and disorder within a micro-civilisation doesn’t skew as deep as The Maze Runner would like, but when it comes to mazes and running, it knows its stuff. Lord of the Flies? Not quite. Cube for kids? Yes please.
The Maze Runner is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.