BY: NICCA PANGGAT
Of all the books-turned-films to hit screens in recent years, Wes Ball’s adaptation of The Maze Runner most closely follows the novel it was derived from. And though it rides the coattails of other dystopian box-office hits such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, The Maze Runner also happens to be the best-done one of all. Based on James Dashner’s book of the same name, The Maze Runner at first glance looks like every other post-apocalyptic film in the current trend – except it isn’t. While most follow a female protagonist, The Maze Runner focuses instead on Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), the last of a line of boys sent to live within a grassy enclosure known as The Glade. Surrounded by a constantly changing, unsolvable maze, they quickly establish rules and responsibilities that allow them to live peacefully within their glorified pen.
It’s Thomas’ own curiosity about their pasts that sets disruptive changes into motion. His willingness to break the rules and interest in the maze creates tension between him and the Gladers who are content with how things are.
O’Brien shines in his first leading role in a major motion picture. By his hands, Thomas becomes a capable, instinctive leader instead of the bumbling, clueless boy he is in the novel. O’Brien completely throws himself into every scene, and it isn’t hard to see why he was cast after such a standout performance.
It’s easy to become invested in the rest of the film’s ragtag group as well. Alby (Aml Ameen) is the first Glader to take responsibility for the boys and plays a huge role in their survival thus far. Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) commands the screen in his attempts to keep everyone from conflict. Even Gally (Will Poulter), Thomas’ antagonist, becomes much more tolerable as a scared boy in the films rather than the arrogant, dictatorial bully he was in the book.
Despite being the only girl in the Glade, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) even manages to hold her own with the boys and doesn’t exist within the movie solely to be Thomas’ love interest.
Due to Ball’s background in visual effects, the visual aspect of The Maze Runner is impressive as well. The restricting walls of the maze tower over the Gladers in a way that enforces their captivity and the constant, foreboding sense of danger around them.
Ball also does a great job of condensing the film around the novel’s most important plot points without losing actual parts of the storyline. From the first minute, the mystery of The Maze Runner is so engaging that it’s impossible to not empathize with Thomas’ desire to piece things together.
The cliffhanger ending of the film works the same way. Ball leaves more questions than answers at the table to keep viewers curious and wanting more. While those who have read the books are well adjusted to what lies ahead, those who haven’t will more than likely be gearing up for a sequel.