By Bill Arceneaux
There is many an allusion to grander themes in the latest young adult novel turned movie, The Maze Runner. By far my favorite one is that of a sort of literal and more realistic retelling of The Garden of Eden – multiple Adams, one Eve, some animals and a paradise where you’re held against your will. It’s a stretch, sure, but when you make that comparison in your mind, things get awfully interesting as the plot unfolds. And, the more that unfolds, the more interest you’ll have to create for yourself.
Maybe it was because I screened the movie as the second part of a nighttime double feature (the first part being the latest from Kevin Smith), maybe it was the rows of giggling girls sitting by me, or maybe it was the bland scripting and atmosphere. Yeah, that’s probably it, and probably the reason why it didn’t resonate with me.
Now, The Maze Runner is, by no means, a bad film. It is, from a technical standpoint, very competent – straightforward, telling its story with a confident efficiency, able to wrangle young actors to decent performances. At times Lord of the Flies, other times Battle Royale light, it’s a movie that, I could tell, younger audiences were very engaged with and compelled by. If you’re concerned with levels of violence and sex, don’t be – everything is played very safe.
And, that’s my problem.
It could be that the novel the movie is based on is, itself, boring as well; a premise without promise, meant only to reproduce more books. These adaptations, ironically, are also determined to reproduce as franchises, but some, like The Hunger Games, at least have bolder craft and something to say. Maybe they’re not subtle about it, but something is being done. The Maze Runner is, disappointingly, just a setup for further films. Arcs are rushed, relationships slap dashed and action easily digested and quickly regurgitated. Been there, done that and got the receipt to prove it.
The biblical notions I thought of during the movie were not really evidenced or encouraged by the film, but rather my brain’s attempt at searching for some kind of hidden depth – some kind of subtext or purpose beyond the obvious. The writers and filmmakers had no interest in exploration, teasing or ambiguity. Why challenge your demographic when you can give them what you think they want? Then again, the cackle of young girls did cry by the end, clearly emotional. Of course, they’ll probably cry at anything – they’re hormonal. But it did connect with them. Boy, would I love for one of them to write a review beyond 140 characters.
For more from the author, follow him on twitter @billreviews and visit his page – The New Vitascopes – on Medium.com.