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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 09.18.14] post apocalyptic scifi action adventure

Director Wes Ball has been toiling away at movie making for well over a decade. He made a couple of short films, worked in both the art and effects departments of some large projects and then in 2011 he made an impressive animated short titled Ruin (which you can, and should, watch online) which turned out to be the best possible calling card for the future director of The Maze Runner.

Based on the first novel of James Dashner's quadrilogy, The Maze Runner is a sci-fi infused, post apocalyptic update on William Golding's "Lord of the Flies." Heck, you can even say it has traces of "Lost" and Cube what with the mysterious set-up and all.

Dylan O'Brien (likeable sidekick on MTV's surprisingly good "Teen Wolf") stars as Thomas, the latest in a long string of boys who has been shipped to "The Glade" via freight elevator. The green space is surrounded by a gigantic wall and Thomas soon learns that beyond the wall is a maze. Every day, boys selected as "runners" go out and run the maze, trying to find a way out. Thing is, they can't all go out into the maze looking for answers because at sundown, the doors close, the maze changes and to make it all more difficult, it's also guarded by creatures the Gladers call Grievers.

The boys seem to live in harmony but Thomas has stirred something in Gally, the resident badass. Gally has a hate on for the Greenie (the name given to new arrivals) and this point of contention leads to a lot of problems in the near future. It certainly doesn't help that shortly after Thomas' arrival, a girl is sent up in the elevator. Not only is she the first girl, she's apparently the last new recruit. Terror ensues. Without monthly deliveries of new Greenies and more importantly, food, how are the Gladers going to survive?

The Maze Runner doesn't grapple too deeply with the inner workings or dynamics of the group. There's certainly some of that and Ball along screen writers Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin deftly incorporate those ideas into the story (it would be difficult if not impossible to completely ignore them considering the set-up) but most of the kids are far more interested in solving the mystery of the maze and getting the hell out.

The first half of The Maze Runner is talk heavy with lots of introductions and explanations of the world and rules but the facts are well incorporated and the movie never feels like it comes to a standstill for exposition sake. There's also plenty of action in the first half though most of the high octane stuff comes in the second; there's plenty peppered throughout to keep the energy high. Ball has a great eye for action and the maze, with its massive grey walls that all look the same, never gets boring or feels overused (though the music that accompanies said action is occasionally overwrought).

I read the first book in Dashner's series and though I found the concept interesting, I didn't care enough for the book to read any of the others; the cliffhanger simply wasn't enticing enough. That's certainly not the case with movie. The Maze Runner manages to succeed not only as a stand alone piece of entertainment, with a great sense of wonder, brains and humour, but it manages to sign off with an enticing final scene that left me wanting more.

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