This might be me showing my age, but it does seem that teens today have it tougher. With new technology appearing every 8 seconds, Michael Gove (until recently) as education secretary and an entire genre of films dedicated to trying to murder them.
Yes, gone are the days of the kids from American Pie trying to get laid. The new stories for teens – sorry, Young Adults – are those of The Hunger Games, Divergent and now The Maze Runner with kids rebelling against an oppressive older authority who are trying to murder them because of reasons.
The Maze Runners reasons for inter-generational homicide are flimsier than most, by which I mean we’ve no idea. The premise sees kids arriving once a month into the middle of a mysterious glade, all suffering from amnesia. How cunning of you Maze Runner, to pull the old amnesia card, thus saving you of the requirement to provide any characterisation beyond a vague one line description. Actually, that may be doing them greater credit – you could probably do it in three words or less. Wise leader. Curious heroic newcomer. Troubled hard man. Intellectual second in command… dammit, so close.
The glade is surrounded by the maze – an ever-changing labyrinth with an assortment of traps, puzzles and beasties. No-one’s ever made it through (or so they say. Given the pillocks sitting tight in the middle of the maze, if I’d made it out I think it unlikely I’d go back the rescue the rest of them), until a new face arrives in the glade who brings hope and optimism to those trapped within.
You may be forgiven for thinking that this all sounds familiar, and you’d be right. There’s precious few plot points to stand out here amongst a genre that has The Hunger Games leaning behemoth-like over the rest, beyond the maze itself. And yet for a USP, the maze does seem like an afterthought – scenes within are few and far between and at best seem like the scrapings left behind on Terry Gilliam’s script floor. This is meant to be the main hook to draw people in, and whilst the effects are impressive the menace that this thing is meant to possess never seems to live up to them.
Another problem lies in the casting. The Hunger Games has America’s Sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence, whilst The Maze Runner has the kid from Love Actually and the plotline no-one cares about in Game of Thrones. Whilst he doesn’t do especially badly, it’s not difficult to stand out amongst a cast made 90% of wood.
The film ends with a lot of unanswered questions. They’ve been trapped in a maze. People have created giant monsters. A troubled society was created and tested. Who knows why? Not me. Who cares? See above. The stakes are barely raised at any point, and it’s difficult to care about any character when all we have is their name and the afore-mentioned three word character description. The film is obviously – and presumptuously – working towards a series which can only lead to an unsatisfactory conclusion for the next 4 or 5 films. Meaning that effectively, we’ve barely entered the maze.