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Jacob Peck

Staff Writer

7.5 / 10

There’s a lot not to like about “The Maze Runner.” It’s a dystopia based off a YA novel, the material of which has been ruthlessly condensed for the film, which clocks in at 144 minutes, though it feels much shorter. The plot is shaky at best and filled with stock characters. But going into the film with an open mind might leave viewers pleasantly surprised.

“The Maze Runner” is director Wes Ball’s first feature film. His previous work has been almost completely in the visual effects department, but he shows an impressive aptitude for direction, and keeps the special effects, if not sparse, then sparser than viewers might expect. Ball creates the sense that he is doing the best he can with mediocre material, but he succeeds beautifully in evoking the mystery and murkiness that the book aims for.

The plot of “The Maze Runner” is your standard dystopia fare, with a twist. The film begins with young Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) waking up on a dark elevator that brings him into The Glade, a huge grassy plain surrounded by imposingly tall stone walls. Behind these walls lies the Maze, a seemingly unsolvable labyrinth that could lead to the world outside. Inside the walls, a small company of teenage boys, all with their memories erased (except, of course, for their names), have forged a new society. Thomas meets Alby (Aml Ameen), the leader, his right-hand man, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), thuggish cook Gally (Will Poulter), and Minho (Ki Hong Lee), who leads the “runners,” the section of their small society tasked with finding a way out of the maze.

The plot, which takes many turns from beginning to end, focuses on Thomas running through the maze. Filled with genuinely freaky creatures, the maze is where the movie hits its high point. Free from the constraints of plot and character development, Ball is able to give the Maze a real sense of danger and claustrophobia, especially when Thomas first enters it.

The films falls apart after the climax, when it dips from imaginative thriller to cookie-cutter dystopia. But of course, the film has to be set up for a sequel, of which there are many in the series. Overall, The Maze Runner stands a head above the majority of YA novel adaptations, and even if it isn’t a great movie, it is certainly an entertaining one.

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