A young man, Thomas (Dylan O’Brian), is lifted through a special elevator into a lush green area. This area is populated by young boys, all of varying ages. They have arrived here, one per month, from the elevator Thomas has just arrived in. With no memories of their pasts and no idea how they arrived at the location, the group falls in line under the guidance of a young man named Alby (Aml Ameen), the first young man to have arrived. His second in command, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), helps Thomas adjust. He becomes fast friends with Chuck (Blake Cooper), a young overweight boy with a good heart and the desire to see Thomas fit in. Horrible sounds come out at night and the boys explain that they are surrounded by a large maze. Only specific boys in the group, The Runners, enter the maze and no one has survived a night alone inside. Creatures known as Grievers live in the maze and their sting causes a terrible reaction that seemingly leads to delusions and death. Alby and the leader of the Runners, Minho (Ki Hong Lee), enter the maze to explore only to have Alby be attacked by a Griever. Thomas runs in to help and the three are trapped in the maze over night. Showing intense survival skills, Minho decides after they return from actually surviving a night in the maze that he and Thomas should investigate further. This sends off a series of changes in the maze, as well as one final resident being delivered to the camp; a girl named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario). The group must find a way to survive in the maze and locate a way out.
To say The Maze Runner is dark feels like a serious understatement. Boys being killed, giant poisonous metal spider creatures and jump scares are around every turn. At one point, Patricia Clarkson seemingly blows her own head off. I found myself clinging to the arm rest and wondering how kids would be able to watch this without being terrified. However, the 11 year-old to my left loved every second. She sat focused for an entire hour and a half. I watched through my fingers while she watched on the edge of her seat. Dylan O’Brian’s portrayal of Thomas is intriguing and believable. Aml Ameen make the viewer believe he has been poisoned and his PTSD style behaviors are painfully familiar.
The film features only two prevalent female characters: Teresa and Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson). Teresa enters the film so late that one cannot help but be scared of what will happen when she enters the semi-functional Lord of the Flies camp. I found myself more interested in the story of the boys than the lone girl in the camp; the boys at least had important personalities. Ava Paige is particularly unlikeable due to her actions with the group. Patricia Clarkson is an amazing actress. Her normally lovable demeanor is replaced by a creepy shadowy figure.
The Maze Runner is certainly not for sensitive viewers. The death of many of the children may trigger intense fear in younger or sensitive viewers. However, I would say if you or your children were able to sit through the first two Hunger Games films comfortably, you will be fine. Overall, the film is well-structured and action-packed.
The Maze Runner in now in theaters.