The Maze Runner (2014)

*. This is one of those movies that’s hard for me to comment on since I’m not the target audience. It’s a YA movie, of a particular type that became very popular around this time, and I’m no longer a young adult.
*. God knows it’s familiar territory though. The main character awakes to find himself trapped in a situation where he has to survive some kind of test being run by an unseen auditor. I call these movies the Game of Death films, and they’re basically all the children of Cube (from which this one borrows a lot) and Saw. In this case the Game is crossbred with the YA dystopian fantasy genre, which found its most popular expression in the Hunger Games franchise. If you want to trace the genealogy back further you’d find Lord of the Flies and other things, but that’s not necessary, especially as this film isn’t an allegory of much of anything beyond the usual rite-of-passage stuff.
*. Once you’ve identified the sources being drawn on there’s not a lot to add. The premise itself is so far-fetched it’s beyond belief. I mean, it makes the prison block in Cube seem perfectly reasonable. Indeed, upon considering the matter a little more deeply, I think this may be the most outrageously stupid idea for a film that there has ever been. It makes absolutely no sense at all that the WCKD company would have gone through this much trouble to run such an elaborate and staggeringly expensive experiment that they could have managed far more effectively at a fraction of the cost some other way.
*. Putting all of that aside, I find it interesting how so many of these dark, dystopic visions are now being pitched to YA audiences. Perhaps young people today are starting to realize just how badly they’ve been screwed. Too bad, kids! There’s no future for you.
*. Then there is the softly elided sexual angle. A prison colony full of boys right at the age when their hormones are peaking and, yeah, I think Teresa might be in some real trouble. The note that came up on the elevator with her saying that she would be the last such colonist could only be interpreted as a signal to the others to begin breeding season. Meanwhile, heaven knows the convicts in the Glade must have been pounding a lot of ass over the course of the last three years, but you never hear any mention of it and none of the boys seem to have paired off.
*. And if you say, “But it’s a YA movie,” I can only respond that a YA audience would know damn well what I’m talking about. Perhaps better than anyone.
*. As in any YA high-school flick the characters we meet are all types, and they’re arranged in the usual social hierarchies, giving rise to the usual small group dynamics (though, as already noted, without any hint of who’s dating who).
*. In addition to this familiar subject matter, the movie telegraphs all of its plot points so that nothing remotely surprising happens. When a character finds himself at “just another dead end” you can be sure that . . . it isn’t! When it seems like Thomas and Minho aren’t coming back out of the maze alive and everyone turns away . . . wait! There they are! You didn’t think Alby was going to get killed when everything went quiet there after the Griever attack? You didn’t think the maudlin business with Chuck’s carving was going to get used later? If so, you don’t watch many movies.
*. I understand that Minho knows the sequence for the way the maze opens up, but how would he know the code to open the door based on that, since he wouldn’t know what the first number in the sequence was?
*. Wouldn’t the Runners’ shoes have worn out after three years? Or is the company sending more up all the time in the elevator? And does the company do their laundry too?
*. Does all this make it sound like I hated The Maze Runner? Well, I didn’t. I just thought it was predictable fare that followed a bunch of conventions in a rather ridiculously epic way. I mean, giant mechanical spiders? Why?
*. In other words, it’s sort of like a superhero movie, where you can say that if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Still, like most of the better superhero movies, it does pass the time. Or at least I assume it does if you’re young enough to get it.

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