Quick Summary: Waking up in a metal lift with nothing of his memory except his name, Thomas finds himself appearing in The Glade. Surrounding him upon his arrival to the woodland surrounded valley are other teen boys teasing and taunting his arrival. Quickly he learns that they have all been trapped there, each with only their name in memory, with one large obstacle to understand and defeat. The Maze. Every changing and always dangerous the boys have spent quite a long time trying to learn its secrets-and now Thomas will join them in hopes of escape. However, shortly after his arrival things began to change that will alter the way the boys think and act towards each other and The Maze.
This is based off a trilogy book series, which is set in a dystopian style setting filled with teenagers who must defeat deadly odds to win their freedom. This sounds pretty familiar with a lot of other YA dystopian themed films (based off novels). However don’t let this deter you.
The beginning setup is an all male society with teen of varying ages. It reminded me a bit of Lord of the Flies at first, except that over time these young men have actually learned to live in peace with each other for the most part. They have rules, a structure, and everyone has jobs based on their skills and personalities. With each new member they add on to their strengths in hopes of finding out the secrets of the Maze that will eventually let them escape The Glade which is their home.
You have a few standard character archetypes with some not so used ones mixed in, which is a nice change. There is the leader who is firm but fair, the outspoken brutish one who likes to act like an Alpha, the sweet younger one who everyone dotes over, and the new member who is different than all the rest. As for the actors they chose to fill these roles, I was actually happily surprised. There are a few who have short roles in the first film that will be extended in the second, so I won’t comment on those since we never really get to see the act too much. For those you do get to see though, happy thoughts.
Thomas is played by Dylan O’Brien (who had a major role in Teen Wolf a TV series), and I thought the way he used facial expressions and body language suited the character really well since he goes through so much emotion and events in such a short time. Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays Newt, the second in command, and though not as much on screen as I would have liked he did display the thoughtful and mature role of Newt that was needed. Which makes sense because he did a great job in Game of Thrones. Gully is played by Will Poulter, who has to portray the brutish type character who is protective and also wary of Thomas who acts so differently than everyone else.You want to be mad at him, but you can also see his side of things. Big change from his role of Eustace in Narnia! Ki Hong Lee is Minho and has a very strong personality on screen. His character doesn’t show too much emotional complexity in his face, but his actions speak much more louder than words. Than you have Aml Ameen who plays Alby, the leader of the entire Glade. His character is rather complex and plays many roles to the multiple boys under his care. I very much enjoyed watching this actor portray a character who has practically the weight of their world on his shoulders as he tries to protect and guide everyone.
Only thing I really liked about the film was the way it was filmed. It seemed almost…natural or ‘raw’ in a sense of the film styles. There wasn’t too much in the way of flashy effects or over done explosions, if they were needed it was tasteful and made sense. They do a lot of close ups on characters faces or tight shots of group scenes, which really draws you in on how he/they are feeling at the time of whatever is happening. It almost gives it a first person perspective at times, especially when Thomas is alone and having introspection moments. When CGI or special graphics were needed, they flowed very easily into the story and the scene. They didn’t detract attention from the situation or the main story line, as they’re supposed to.
One thing that may surprise some people is this is actually a bit of a violent film. During the film Thomas is told that there are things in the Maze that will kill a person. We see this happen more than a few times. While the blood isn’t over done, you do see some people meet their untimely end, which is always a bit difficult when they are representing young people. It is needed however to get the severity and level of danger that these young men are facing in this harrowing plight of theirs. it does have a spot of humor spilled in there too so don’t worry about it being all high strung drama! After all, children are very good at finding ways to have fun even in unhappy situations. As a side note: I think of of my favorite parts about this is the lack of a very obvious love triangle! So over the dystopian love triangle!
The pacing of the whole story is overall pretty good. There are a few points where I felt like it dragged on a bit too much or went a little quickly, but for the most part it smoothed together very well and made it feel like it packed a lot into the 113 minute long film without it feeling over-packed. The ending of the film felt a bit disjointed from the rest of it, but in my opinion it’s always a bit hard to have a smooth ending when there is another film to follow. For the most part it was ok though.
Overall score: 8/10.