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  Maze Runner, The Into The Labyrinth
Year: 2014
Director: Wes Ball
Stars: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Dexter Darden, Chris Sheffield, Joe Adler, Alexander Flores, Jacob Latimore, Randall D. Cuningham, Patricia Clarkson, Don McManus
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: This young man (Dylan O'Brien) finds himself in a metal cage being speedily transported up through many floors until it stops abruptly and the top opens up to reveal a group of other young men staring at him. He finds that not only does he not know where he is, but he doesn't know where he's been either, as his memory has gone, he cannot even remember his own name. As he emerges from the cage, he is confounded by the group and makes a break for it across a field, but after sprinting away from the hoots of the others he realises there is nowhere to go: there are towering walls all around. There is no escape.

The Hollywood passion for adapting so-called "Young Adult" novels continued apace with the first in a proposed series of James Dashner's The Maze Runner books, and unlike all those which had fallen by the wayside, floundering in the face of public indifference to overcomplicated and overinvolved fantasy scenarios, this one did fairly well. Much of that was down to the production keeping the costs fairly economical, thereby guaranteeing a profit at the box office, but it was also seeking to cash in on the market established by the success of The Hunger Games at the movies, and if nobody was going to rival that any time soon, this was a passable try at conjuring up the style and appeal.

But really it was more of the same, gifted youngsters trapped in a world of menace by shadowy older authorities, forced to work out some puzzle as a challenge to getting to the next level and potential freedom. That's right, there was a computer game tone to much of The Maze Runner too (Pac-Man, anybody?) as the hero, who eventually recalls his name is Thomas, must graduate through an assault course of the titular maze, avoiding great big monsters for no other reason than they were deemed necessary in this kind of science fiction. In fact, once you were at least in possession of some of the plot, the whole set-up came across as a needlessly complex one which would have taken so much time and energy to build as to be pointless.

It was, of course, a large scale test of the mettle of the young men (and one boy, Blake Cooper, whose unexplained presence is a little odd), as puzzles are meant to be solved after all, and Thomas sets about applying himself, often in peril as the monsters prowl the maze surrounding the high walls and are wont to grab and do terrible things to anyone they catch, though what those things were went undepicted thanks to the teen-friendly ratings certificate. You didn't really need bloodthirsty violence in efforts such as this, though if you did you'd probably end up with something akin to a variation on the Cube series, so it was enough to be aware the group were in dire need of escaping, not that ostensible leader Gally (Will Poulter) is in any hurry to allow that.

He reasons they are self-sufficient where they are, but Thomas quickly becomes the new leader thanks to his ingenuity and willingness to explore, thereby moving the narrative along with director Wes Ball's brisk pace. As well as computer games, the results owed something to television shows like the obvious Lost, which had thrived on its enigma, and going back to The Prisoner in the nineteen-sixties which similarly stranded its protagonist in an impossible situation then demanded he do something about it. But in the main this was a decent enough attempt at adventure that couldn't quite get over a contrived and silly premise, which made more sense as a game than it did as a movie (or perhaps even a book series), lending a pandering air in its "this is what the kids like these days, right?" endeavours. It was blessed with a cast of mostly twenty-somethings who seemed destined for greater things, whether as leads or character actors, and they could have chosen worse movies to appear in to raise their profile. Unconvincing, but not a dead loss by any means. Just by some means. Music by John Paesano.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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