I read James Dashner’s The Maze Runner (Book 1) just before the movie hit the theatre. It was my continuation of tackling every popular YA series at the time.
The book started off pretty slow but by the end, I enjoyed it enough to want to move onto the second book (The Scorch Trials). I waited for the DVD to watch the movie. So, here I am with both scratched off my “to do” list. The book picked up about a quarter of the way in, but most of the action happened in the last quarter. It kept me entertained, and was a good fun read.
I feel the movie failed the book miserably. I have noted before that I understand in most cases the movie is rarely better than the book but there are key elements that have to succeed. Those elements in this movie did not. The book has some interesting characters that move the story along at a good pace.
My personal favorite was Minho. He is in the movie, but I don’t feel they tapped into his character to the extent they should have. I believe if they focused a little more on him, Newt and Alby, the audience would have cared more about the the circumstances of the Glade vs the Maze.
The script removed those critical elements that held as the bindings to the book. Removing those details also removed some of the audiences commitment to the characters I believe. The biggest fail is when Theresa appears ... the only girl. Her arrival is suppose to be a BIG thing and driving point of the storyline. It didn’t feel that way in the least bit from my point of view. They did not tap into why Thomas and her are somewhat bound.
Now I understand this is not a rave review. I would still recommend this movie for a good bowl of popcorn and an “at home movie” night. I would push for the audience to read the books as well so they have a little more interest in the characters and what may happen next. I am excited to see Part Two, but I hope the studio does not edit out those important plot developments that were missing in The Maze Runner.
The Maze Runner book came out of nowhere for me. I read it expecting to find another young adult book that focused solely on romance and left the story and action second. But after devouring the first book at record pace, I realized I had found something incredibly special and it became one of my favorite book series of all time. To say I was excited for the movie was a big understatement: I was practically foaming at the mouth with excitement when I saw the trailers. But how did the final product turn out? In short: pretty disappointing.
I have one overarching complaint about the movie that can explain practically all of its issues: it feels rushed. This is extremely weird for a young adult movie, because most of them feel as if they are padded with so much exposition and dialogue. But Maze Runner doesn’t fill in the audience on anything other than the main storyline of trying to get out of the Glade. If I wouldn’t have read the book, I would have been totally in the dark about what WICKED is because they explain it so poorly in the film. Not only that, but everything moves at a breakneck speed and makes it difficult to actually decipher what is going on. The speed of the action could be a very useful tool to signify disorientation or confusion, but it just seems as if everything is rushed because they wanted to get certain parts of the story over with. This almost ruins the last half of the movie because everything movies TOO quickly and has very little meaning behind it if you didn’t read the book.
The single biggest problem that Maze Runner has doesn’t have to do with story or at how fast everything is conveyed; the biggest flaw are the characters which are incredibly two dimensional. The way that the characters act are just stereotypical caricatures of everything we’ve seen before. Strong, fearless protagonist with almost no personality? Check. Leader unwilling to give into any compromise? Check. Damsel in distress who can’t do anything other than cry or whine? BIG CHECK. Everything seems so scripted and ripped out of other movies that it’s hard to care about these characters when we really need to. The audience needs to be worried about whether or not these characters will survive to keep a movie like this engaging. If the movie would have been 20 minutes longer, most of these complaints could have been easily fixed. Spend more time fully fleshing out the characters, spend a little bit explaining the main storyline, and spend the rest making the actions sequences a bit less disorienting.
But there is honestly a lot to love about The Maze Runner. First off, the Glade is incredibly gorgeous, especially the maze. Every single piece hut, piece of grass, and vine seems like it is intentional. It also looks exactly like it was described in the book, so I tip my hat to the people who made the CGI: they really nailed it. The story (even though it is rushed) is still incredibly engaging. The central mystery around why everyone is in the Glade and why Thomas and Teresa know each other is quite good. And even though the action scenes feel rushed, they are still tense. Anything that happens inside the maze had me wide-eyed in suspense, even knowing what was going to happen.
While Maze Runner isn’t as good as I hoped it would be, it isn’t too terrible either. Most of the problems are quick fixes: just spend a little more time developing the characters and making the story a little friendlier for people who aren’t well ad versed in the books. But the heart of what makes the books so good is still there! It’s just hidden beneath some problems that must be fixed. This makes me hopeful that the sequel, The Scorch Trials, which comes out in September, will make some significant improvements.