Maze Runner is More Than a Pale Imitation

THE MAZE RUNNER

 Since Twilight and The Hunger Games took both the literary and cinematic worlds by storm, multiplexes have been inundated with studios’ attempts to create a new Young Adult franchise. From the probably dreadful Beautiful Creatures and Mortal Instruments to the seemingly misguided The Giver, there have been many pretenders. The Maze Runner is a mix between those failed efforts and the science fiction thrills of something like The Hunger Games. Between the better-than-expected performances from its young cast, the not-too-shabby effects, and a plot that starts out refreshingly minimalist, the latest stab at manufacturing a worldwide phenomenon isn’t half-bad. It does, however, suffer from a few problems that inherently plague the majority of these films that follow in the footsteps of those aforementioned juggernauts. The first is an inescapable problem and perhaps an issue that I’m unfairly mentioning here: it feels like the umpteenth science fiction flick featuring pretty young people in a dystopian setting fighting against an oppressive force. Everything has to have a cool name. “Runner,” “blades,” “grievers.” I suppose it’s realistic considering teenagers’ aptitude for nicknames, but that doesn’t make it any less corny when uttered on screen. We aren’t treated to yet another love triangle (although, predictably, it means the lead female character is relegated to the sidelines save for a “heart to heart” with the hero), but we do witness yet another alien creature iteration that is completely lacking in any visual originality. The “grievers” are an amalgam of monster and machine, looking like a cross between a robot spider and a giant scorpion. Pretty ho-hum stuff if you’re familiar with the genre. Fortunately, the fresh-faced unknown actor saddled with the brunt of protagonist this time around is actually pretty good. There’s a naturalism to Dylan O’Brian’s performance that’s surprising. Unlike other young’uns reaching for stardom, he’s unforced in every way, and that goes a long way toward separating “The Maze Runner” from the many pale imitations.

Grade: B-

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