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The Maze Runner (2014)

Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

The Maze Runner is a 2014 American dystopian science fiction film directed by Wes Ball, in his directorial debut, based on James Dashner’s 2009 novel of the same name. The film is the first installment in The Maze Runner film series and was produced by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen, and Lee Stollman with a screenplay by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, and T.S. Nowlin.

The film stars Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Will Poulter, and Patricia Clarkson. The story follows sixteen-year-old Thomas, portrayed by O’Brien, who awakens in a rusty elevator with no memory of who he is, only to learn that he has been delivered to the middle of an intricate maze, along with many other boys, who have been trying to find their way out of the ever-changing labyrinth – all while establishing a functioning society in what they call the Glade.

Development of The Maze Runner began in January 2011 when Fox purchased the film rights to Dashner’s novel with Gotham Group, Temple Hill Entertainment, TSG Entertainment as producers and Catherine Hardwicke intended to direct. In 2012, Ball was hired to direct the film adaptation after presenting a 3D computer-animated short film titled Ruin with a similar tone and was initially considered for a feature-length adaptation. Principal photography began in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on May 13, 2013 and officially concluded on July 12, 2013.

The Maze Runner was released on September 19, 2014, in the United States by 20th Century Fox. The film received positive reviews, with praise for the performances and tone. Critics considered it to be better than most young adult book-to-film adaptations. The film was first at the box office in its opening weekend, grossing $32.5 million, making it the seventh-highest-grossing debut in September.

The film earned over $348 million worldwide at the box office, against its budget of $34 million. A sequel, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, was released on September 18, 2015, in the United States. A third and final film, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, was released on January 26, 2018.

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The Maze Runner (2014) Trailer

 

The Maze Runner (2014) Reviews

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before: In a rigidly structured dystopian future, one plucky teenager dares to think for himself, shake up the status quo and start a revolution–or, at least the beginning of a trilogy.

Such is the stuff of “The Maze Runner,” which hews pretty closely to the YA-novel formula that’s reliably produced so many hugely successful film adaptations in recent years. And, indeed, director Wes Ball’s film is based on the best seller by James Dashner. It features a similar structure, hits some recognizable beats and includes some character types that will seem pretty familiar to anyone who’s seen the “Hunger Games” films, or “Divergent,” or “The Giver.”

That is, until Thomas shows up. Actually, he doesn’t even know his name is Thomas at first. Dylan O’Brien (MTV’s “Teen Wolf”), who resembles a young Rob Lowe, plays the confused young man. At the film’s start, he finds himself rising quickly in a big, rickety freight elevator that’s also loaded with supplies. (The film’s sound design is quite startling and effective; it puts you on edge from the earliest moments.)

When he arrives at the top, he steps out into a sprawling, grassy square known as the Glade, which is surrounded on all sides by imposing and impossibly high concrete walls. Dozens of handsome, young men of various ethnicities wearing various shades of the same long-sleeved shirt work together cooperatively in the sunshine–building huts, gardening, cooking, etc. It’s like the world’s hottest, grungiest Benetton ad.

Like the others before him, Thomas has no memory of who he is and no idea how he got there. But as the newest arrival to the Glade, he is dubbed a “greenie” and duly hazed until he can prove his worth to the key figures he meets. The charismatic Alby (Aml Ameen), who was the first to arrive, is the de facto leader. Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is his impish right-hand man. Gally (Will Poulter) is the muscular bully. Chuck (Blake Cooper) is the wisecracking chubby kid.

And Minho (Ki Hong Lee) is the head of the runners: fleet-footed boys who dare to enter an opening in the giant walls and explore the maze that lies behind them. It’s vast and treacherous but at least navigable in the daytime; at night, it closes up, changes paths and devours anyone foolish enough to remain trapped. No one has survived it overnight and no one has exited the other side.

Naturally, Thomas is intrigued.

And what’s intriguing about “The Maze Runner”–for a long time, at least–is the way it tells us a story we think we’ve heard countless times before but with a refreshingly different tone and degree of detail. Ball, whose background is in visual effects, doesn’t overload his feature debut with a lot of glossy, high-tech imagery. Not for a while, anyway. Much of the film’s charm comes from its rough-hewn aesthetic–a tactile nature that’s both industrial and organic–and the way it takes its time vividly establishing an environment.

When Thomas eventually does enter the maze–no spoiler there, folks, it’s in the title–it produces some moments that are truly harrowing and filled with non-stop, near-death peril. (This is a super-violent PG-13, but then again, the young readers who are the target for these books know what’s in store for them.) The beasts who dwell there are incessant, ravenous and very, very fast. I won’t divulge what they are, but I’ll only say that they’re extremely cool looking and scary as hell.

All of which brings us to the ending. Man, that ending. What a misstep. It’s so incredibly frustrating, because everything was going so well until then. The third act brings some mystery with the arrival of the first girl ever sent up in the elevator: a strong-willed brunette named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), who seems to know Thomas already.

But The Big Reveal of what happened to these kids, who trapped them in this place and what their purpose is ends up being pretty over-the-top even for sci-fi. A lot happens in the film’s final minutes to the extent that it makes “The Maze Runner” feel like it has several conclusions. Some of them feature some unintentional hilarity when shock and fear probably were in the game plan. And they squander the formidable and versatile Patricia Clarkson in only a few moments as the chilly, nefarious mastermind of the maze.

Presumably, she’ll figure more prominently in the sequel. Because, oh yes, it’s coming. You will not have to wander around looking for it for long.

 

  • Christy Lemire –  Roger Ebert
  • Christy Lemire is a longtime film critic who has written for RogerEbert.com since 2013. Before that, she was the film critic for The Associated Press for nearly 15 years and co-hosted the public television series “Ebert Presents At the Movies” opposite Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Roger Ebert serving as managing editor.

Despite a strong opening and riveting first 45 minutes, The Maze Runner devolves into one of the weakest post-apocalyptic Young Adult movies to reach theaters in recent years. The film’s inability to sustain the energy it starts with results in a disappointing experience. The muddled final act (with inconsistent and confusing “revelations”) and open-ended conclusion add to the dissatisfaction.

The Maze Runner gets off to a fantastic start and, based exclusively on its first half, looks to be a winner. Sadly, the qualities that make the film so compelling early evaporate. As the sense of mystery dissipates, so too does The Maze Runner‘s ability to hold the viewer’s interest. The more we learn about the characters’ situation, the less credible the story as a whole seems.

There are some great ideas in The Maze Runner but the storyline patching them together is generic and frustrating. Worse, the movie lurches to a halt rather than having a graceful ending, forcing viewers to wait until the as-yet-unproduced sequel is available to learn the protagonists’ fates. As a result, The Maze Runner fails to work as a stand-alone production. Maybe the addition of another chapter or two (there are three books in the series) will clarify the mass of incoherence that the screenplay exhibits in its final 30 minutes.

The Maze Runner opens with the arrival of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) to a mysterious place known only as The Glade. This Lord of the Flies-inspired setting, occupied by a group of teenage boys, lies at the center of a massive maze. Escape from The Glade is thought to be impossible because the maze cannot be traversed safely at night. It changes daily and its corridors are patrolled after dark by the monstrous Grievers.

The boys of The Glade have developed a primitive, functioning society in which everyone performs their assigned tasks. The leader is Alby (Aml Ameen), who has been there the longest (three years). His lieutenants are the thoughtful Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and the pugnacious Gally (Will Poulter). Thomas arrives as all boys do, with his memory wiped; he knows his name but remembers nothing else about his past.

He also feels a powerful compulsion to become a maze runner – one of several boys whose job is to run through the maze during the day and map its convolutions. Circumstances in The Glade change dramatically with two events: Alby is critically injured during a maze run and Teresa (Kayla Scodelario) arrives – the first girl to come to the Glade and, according to a note she carries, the last person “ever”.

The young, mostly male cast is headed by Dylan O’Brien, a heartthrob-in-the-making with a built-in fan base as a result of his role in the TV series “Teen Wolf.” British actor Will Poulter, who played Eustace in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and was more recently seen in We’re the Millers, understands what it takes to fashion a dislikeable character.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster, another Brit (and the only one allowed to keep his accent), may be familiar to Game of Thrones fans – he played Bran Stark’s companion, Jojen Reed. Kayla Scodelario, a U.K. TV regular since 2007, isn’t given much to do and she certainly doesn’t challenge Jennifer Lawrence for kick-ass girl dominance.

The direction, by first time feature filmmaker Wes Ball (whose background is in art and visual effects) is uneven. As one might expect, the movie looks great. The set design is impressive and the special effects, although limited, are effectively integrated.

Early in the proceedings, Ball is able to generate tension. However, in a later battle between boys and monsters, shaky camera work, fast pans, and frequent cutting makes it virtually impossible to figure out what’s happening. (To an extent, this approach is a result of the PG-13 rating which doesn’t allow the camera to linger when there’s blood and death.)

Having no familiarity with the source material (a 2007 novel by James Dashner), I can’t say whether the movie’s narrative missteps, of which there are many, are the result of problems in the book or the byproduct of sloppy screenwriting or editing.

The explanations for various mysteries are provided through unclear exposition and other things are nonsensical (such as one character showing up in a place where he shouldn’t logically be). Fox has already greenlit the sequel so we’ll be given an opportunity to see where the characters go next. Perhaps a strong second installment will redeem the bad taste left by the first one.

  • A movie review by James Berardinelli

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The Maze Runner (2014) Credits

The Maze Runner movie poster

The Maze Runner (2014)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images

113 minutes

Cast

Will Poulter as Gally

Aml Ameen as Alby

Ki Hong Lee as Minho

Thomas Sangster as Newt

Will Poulter as Gally

Dexter Darden as Fry Pan

Kaya Scodelario as Teresa

Chris Sheffield as Ben

Joe Adler as Zart

Dylan O’Brien as Thomas

Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige

Jacob Latimore as Jeff

Director

  • Wes Ball

Screenplay

  • Grant Pierce Myers
  • Noah Oppenheim
  • T.S. Nowlin

Novel

  • James Dashner

Cinematography

  • Enrique Chediak

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The Maze Runner (2014) Plot

A teenage boy wakes up inside an underground elevator with no memory of his identity, and greeted by several male youths in a large grass area, called the “Glade,” enclosed by tall stone walls. The “Gladers” have formed a rudimentary society, and each assumes specialized tasks. The boy learns that a vast Maze surrounding them is the only way out. During the day, designated Runners search the Maze for an escape route and return before nightfall when the entrance closes.

After a competitive fight with Gally, the boy remembers his name is Thomas. The next day, he is attacked by Ben, a Runner who has been stung and left delirious by a Griever, one of the techno-organic creatures that roam the Maze at night. Ben is forced into the Maze and left to die as a direct consequence of his actions, along with there being no cure for his condition.

Alby, the leader, and Minho, the lead Runner, later retrace Ben’s steps inside the Maze the following morning. Minho reappears late in the afternoon dragging Alby, who has been stung, but are unable to reach the closing entrance in time. Thomas runs into the Maze to help, which leaves all three trapped. Thomas lures a Griever into a closing passageway, which causes it to be crushed. The three manage to survive the night and return the next morning.

A girl arrives in the elevator, with a note saying that she is the last one to enter the Glade, and recognizes Thomas, but he cannot remember her. Thomas, Minho, Frypan, Winston, and Zart enter the Maze, locate the Griever corpse, and remove a beeping mechanical device from inside it. Gally claims that Thomas has jeopardized the fragile peace between the Gladers and the Grievers, and wants him punished.

However, Newt, the group’s second-in-command, instead designates Thomas as a Runner. Minho shows Thomas a hand-constructed model of the Maze that is based on previous explorations. The Maze’s numbered sections open and close in a regular sequence and Thomas realizes that the device corresponds to a section of the Maze.

The girl, Teresa, has two syringes filled with an unknown substance. One is used on Alby, and he recovers from the Griever sting. Minho and Thomas venture back into the Maze with the device and discover a possible exit. Several traps are activated, forcing Thomas and Minho to leave. That night, the Maze entrance does not close, and others open, allowing the Grievers to enter.

Alby, Zart, Clint, and several others die and Gally blames Thomas for the events. Thomas, who has been having disconnected memory flashes since his arrival, stabs himself with a severed Griever stinger in an attempt to revive his memory before he is injected with the last anti-venom. Unconscious, he recalls that he and Teresa worked for the organization that created the Maze, WCKD, and the boys unknowingly have been test subjects for an experiment. Thomas awakens and confesses that he and Teresa worked with WCKD and studied the boys for years.

Meanwhile, Gally has taken command and intends to sacrifice Thomas and Teresa to the Grievers to restore peace. However, several Gladers free them and enter the Maze, but Gally and a few others refuse to leave. As they attempt to access a possible exit, Jeff and several other Gladers are killed by Grievers. The Gladers eventually enter a laboratory strewn with corpses. In a video recording, Ava Paige, a WCKD official, explains that the planet has been devastated by a massive solar flare, followed by a pandemic of a deadly virus, the Flare.

The group learns that they were part of an experiment intended to develop a cure. Paige is seen shooting herself in the video as the lab is overtaken by armed men. Gally, having been stung by a Griever, appears, insists that they will never be free, and points a gun at Thomas. Minho impales Gally in the chest with a spear, but he fatally shoots Chuck. While Thomas mourns over Chuck, masked armed men then rush in and take the group to a helicopter. It flies over a vast desert wasteland and approaches a ruined city.

Later, the supposedly dead scientists meet in a room. Paige notes that the experiment has been successful and the survivors are now entering Phase Two.

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The Maze Runner (2014) Box office

The film grossed $102,427,862 in North America and more than $245.8 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $348.3 million.

Prior to its release in the U.S. and Canada, box office analysts predicted the film would be a box office success, citing effective marketing, good word-of-mouth publicity and a solid release date. Preliminary reports predicted the film would open with takings of over $30–32 million in North America. According to movie-ticket sale website Fandango, The Maze Runner was the biggest seller accounting for more than 50% of early tickets sales.

The film was released on September 19, 2014 in the United States and Canada across 3,604 locations and over 350 IMAX theaters. It earned $1.1 million from Thursday night shows, and $11.25 million on its opening day. It topped the box office on its opening weekend with $32.5 million of which 9% of the gross came from IMAX theaters.Its opening weekend gross is the seventh highest for a film released in September, and the 18th highest for a young-adult book adaptation.

The film earned a total of $102,272,088 at the North American box office becoming the 26th-highest-grossing film of 2014 in the U.S. and Canada.

Outside North America, the film debuted in five countries a week prior to its North American release and earned a total of $8.3 million. The film had a similar success overseas during its wide-opening second weekend earning $38 million from 7,547 screens in 51 markets. It opened in South Korea with $5.5 million – higher than the openings of The Hunger Games and Divergent, the UK, Ireland and Malta with $3.4 million behind Gone Girl,[34][35] and China with $14.58 million behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Other high openings were witnessed in Russia and the CIS ($5.75 million), France ($5.2 million), Australia ($3.4 million), Mexico ($2.6 million), Taiwan ($2.2 million) and Brazil ($2 million).

It became the third-highest-grossing film of all time in Malaysia for Fox (behind Avatar and X-Men: Days of Future Past).

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The Maze Runner (2014) Critical Response

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes assigns the film a score of 65% based on 170 reviews, with an average rating of 5.9/10. The site’s consensus states: “With strong acting, a solid premise, and a refreshingly dark approach to its dystopian setting, The Maze Runner stands out from the crowded field of YA sci-fi adventures”. Metacritic gives the film a score of 57 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.

Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of A− on an A+ to F scale. According to Tim Ryan of The Wall Street Journal, critics considered the film better than most young adult book-to-film adaptations due to its “strong performances and a creepy, mysterious atmosphere”.

Rafer Guzman of Newsday gave the film a three out of four and described it as “solid, well crafted and entertaining”. Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com said she found the film intriguing, writing that “it tells us a story we think we’ve heard countless times before but with a refreshingly different tone and degree of detail”.

The Seattle Timess Soren Anderson said the film was “vastly superior to the book that inspired it” and gave it a score of 3/4. Tony Hicks of the San Jose Mercury News was “hooked by the combination of fine acting, intriguing premise and riveting scenery”. Matthew Toomey of ABC Radio Brisbane gave the film a grade of A−, giving praise to its intriguing premise saying that “it held [his] attention for its full two hour running time”.

Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter said it was “consistently engaging”, and Ella Taylor of Variety wrote “as world-creation YA pictures go, The Maze Runner feels refreshingly low-tech and properly story-driven”.[51]

Michael O’Sullivan of The Washington Post said “The Maze Runner unravels a few mysteries, but it spins even more”, giving it a 3/4. Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger wrote “it does leave you wanting to see the next installment. And that’s one special effect that very few YA movies ever pull off”. Isaac Feldberg of We Got This Covered awarded the film 8/10 stars, calling it “dark, dangerous and uncommonly thrilling”, while extolling it as “one of the most engaging YA adaptations to hit theaters in quite some time.”

Rick Bentley of The Fresno Bee praised Wes Ball’s direction, saying that he “created balance between a thin but solid script and first-rate action – and he doesn’t waste a frame doing it”. Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times called it “a well-acted and intelligent thriller/futuristic sci-fi romp”.

Bilge Ebiri of New York magazine said he “was quite riveted”.[57] Michael Sragow of the Orange County Register gave it a grade of B and said, “Ball is deft, though, at evoking claustrophobia of every kind, whether in the open-air prison of the Glade or the actual tight spaces of the Maze. And he elicits a hair-trigger performance from O’Brien”. 

Claudia Puig of USA Today said “a sci-fi thriller set in a vaguely post-apocalyptic future must create a fully drawn universe to thoroughly captivate the viewer. But Maze Runner feels only partially formed”, giving it a score of 2/4. Time magazine’s Richard Corliss said “like Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit-tentialism, but more crowded and with the musk of bottled-up testosterone”.

Wesley Morris of the website Grantland said “I think I have a touch of apocalepsy – excessive sleepiness caused by prolonged exposure to three- and four-part series in which adolescents rebel against oppressive governments represented by esteemed actors”.

Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film a 2.5 out of 4 rating and said “it’s bleak business, and as it hurries toward its explosive, expository conclusion, the film becomes nonsensical, too”. Film critic Ethan Gilsdorf of The Boston Globe said “teens should eat up this fantasy’s scenery-chewing angst and doom, and the hopeful tale of survival and empowerment (to be continued in the inevitable sequel or sequels)”.

 

The Maze Runner (2014) Accolades

List of awards and nominations
Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
2014 IFMCA Awards Best Original Score for an Action/Adventure/Thriller Film John Paesano Nominated
2015 MTV Movie Awards Best Breakthrough Performance Dylan O’Brien Won
Best Fight Dylan O’Brien and Will Poulter Won
Best Hero Dylan O’Brien Won
Best Scared-As-Shit Performance Dylan O’Brien Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie: Action/Adventure The Maze Runner Nominated
Choice Movie: Breakout Star Thomas Brodie-Sangster Nominated
Choice Movie: Chemistry Dylan O’Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster Nominated
Choice Movie Actor: Action/Adventure Dylan O’Brien Nominated
Choice Movie Actress: Action/Adventure Kaya Scodelario Nominated
2016 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards Favorite Book James Dashner Nominated

The Maze Runner (2014) Movie Info

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), a teenager, arrives in a glade at the center of a giant labyrinth. Like the other youths dumped there before him, he has no memory of his previous life. Thomas quickly becomes part of the group and soon after demonstrates a unique perspective that scores him a promotion to Runner status — those who patrol the always-changing maze to find an escape route. Together with Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the only female, Thomas tries to convince his cohorts that he knows a way out.

 

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