Streamlined Story, Immersive Effects, & Strong Performances Make ‘The Maze Runner’ a Compelling Watch

The Maze Runner is the latest YA novel to hit the big screen. Based on the novel by James Dashner, the film immediately throws the audience into the story, opening on Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) speeding toward parts unknown in a terrifying elevator. He has no memory of who he is or how he got there, and his arrival in the Glade—an apparent safe haven in the center of a massive, deadly maze—does little to put his mind at ease. Director Wes Ball and screenwriters Noah Oppenheim, T.S. Nowlin, and Grant Pierce Myers effectively hone in on the core elements of the novel, streamlining the story for an engaging cinematic experience. Combined with compelling effects and strong performances, The Maze Runner is a fast-paced, smart watch that will definitely hold your attention.

The Maze Runner does an excellent job of maintaining the film’s initial momentum and sense of adrenaline. While James Dashner’s extensive introduction to the Glade and many of its teen inhabitants definitely contributes to making The Maze Runner a fascinating read, one has to imagine that such lengthy exposition would bog down the film. We still get a feel for the workings of the society the boys have built in the Glade and some great character moments—in fact, Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Chuck (Blake Cooper) have some of the best lines—while staying focused on the boys’ central mission: surviving and ultimately escaping the maze.

The maze itself is beautifully (and terrifyingly) rendered—its twists, turns, and shifting walls look stunning on the big screen. Its deadly inhabitants, the Grievers, are the biomechanical creatures of nightmares. This story is not a run-of-the-mill dystopia about picking up the pieces after an apocalyptic event: the danger is very present and always evolving. Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), new (and final) arrival to the Glade, declares, “Everything is going to change”—and it does. With tensions rising among the Gladers and everything they think they know about the maze put in question after Thomas and Teresa’s appearance, finding the way out becomes not just a goal, but a necessity if anyone’s going to survive.

In addition to a thrilling story and convincing visual effects, the film also features strong performances from a great ensemble cast. Dylan O’Brien is a charismatic standout as Thomas, whose curiosity, intelligence, and courage fuel the plot. Will Poulter’s Gally is a more conflicted, humanized character than his book counterpart—not exactly likable, but it’s easier to see where he’s coming from, even if you don’t agree with it. Ki Hong Lee’s Keeper of the Runners, Minho, is capable and hardcore. Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s Newt and Aml Ameen’s Alby are great core characters who help establish the world of the Glade. Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) is at the center of one of my favorite scenes, which takes place right after she comes to—I just wish that she had more to do in the film after that. While I think the makers of The Maze Runner made the right calls in keeping the film largely centered on the mysteries and action of the maze, I do hope we’ll see more character growth and interaction in the sequel.

Speaking of The Scorch Trials—let’s just say that the last few moments of The Maze Runner up the stakes in a big way. You won’t want to wait to find out what happens next.

Overall, The Maze Runner is a solid YA adaptation that’s definitely worth watching. Will you be seeing it this weekend?

The Maze Runner is in theaters now.

Fangirl, avid reader, & Anglophile. Current obsessions include: Dylan O'Brien, Teen Wolf, Game of Thrones, brunch, SDCC, and gingerbread lattes. Not a queen, a Khaleesi. Contact: chloe@fangirlish.com.