Review – It Gets Lost in the End (“The Maze Runner”)

Along for the ride in a string of recent forgettable sci-fi YA movies (Divergent, The Giver), this newest entry is a cut above the others in story, but loses points in the all-too critical ending.

Set in an unknown time and place, we have a teenager thrust up (via cargo elevator from the depths of who-knows-where) into a huge glade (called “the Glade”) and surrounded by an inescapable 20-story tall massive structure. What is it, why is it there, who built it, what are the initials “W.C.K.D” on the crates, and more are questions this kid wants to know.
He’s met by a gang of other guys just like him (think “Lord of the Flies“) who were brought there just like him, but all he can remember is that his name is Thomas (Dylan O’Brien). The Glade’s oldest and wisest leader is Alby (Aml Ameen), and he tells Thomas that the MAZE encompasses all of the Glade and that no one has ever escaped. Everything else is unknown.

A ginormous door opens every morning and closes every night and in the interim they send out “runners” to map the maze inside, hoping to find a way out. But alas, in three years, nobody has found a way out and NOBODY has survived a night inside the MAZE because of the “Grievers”: giant bio-mechanical spider/scorpion thingys that like to kill you.

Thomas’ natural curiosity gets the better of him and, in an act of heroism to save a Griever-stung Alby, he enters the MAZE after it closes and, not only survives a night, but even kills a Griever. This pisses-off Gally (Will Pouter), Alby’s next in command (who really want’s to be FIRST in command), and impresses Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Alby’s third in command. Finding a mysterious electronic gizmo inside the dead Griever, Thomas and runner Minho (Ki-Hong Lee) use it to discover a hidden passage within the MAZE that could lead to the groups escape. But that’s gonna have to wait as a new arrival to the Glade appears, via that ground elevator. . .and it’s a GIRL! Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) is half-dead, clutching a paper saying she’s the “last one”, and the MAZE starts to act funny.

Just as Thomas and Teresa start to figure things out, things get crazy as the Grievers start attacking outside the MAZE for no reason. . . or do they? The gang’s only hope is unlocking that secret passage inside the MAZE or die trying! What they (and we, the audience) discover in the end is a true head-scratcher and WTH? moment. It sets it up for a proposed sequel that is already in the works, but that doesn’t excuse the bizarre ending that you’re subjected to.

Based on James Dasher’s trilogy YA books, this entry film is quite good as far as wetting our appetite with Wes Ball’s direction and (thank God!) does NOT contain a dysfunctional utopian society that’s gone awry this time! But, the screenplay by Noah Oppenheim,
Grant Pierce Myers, and T.S. Nowlin,  aside from the same ‘ol cliches we’ve seen before, has some real problems in the third act. I’m sure it must be explained to some degree in the books, but in the movie the ending was confusing, strange, and made no sense at all. I felt like a puzzled Dr. Evil saying, “Throw me a bone here, people!” Does this movie come with Cliffs Notes?   

The actors are all unknown, save for Will Pouter, who was recently in We’re The Millers. And is it me, or is
Thomas Brodie-Sangster a dead-ringer for Freddie Highmore (A&E’s The Bates Motel)? And it looks like Kaya Scodelario went to the Kristen Stewart School of Acting with her dead eyes and non-plussed emotions. I read the plot synopsis for book two of this trilogy and woo-boy! It’s pretty silly! All I can say is, good luck with the screenplay, guys!                          


Somewhat like The Maze Runner, this movie starts with someone who awakens to find himself in a cube-shaped room that has a hatch on each wall, floor, and ceiling. Having no clue where he is or how he got there, he opens some of the hatches, and he finds passages to rooms (other cubes) that are identical, except for their colors. Hmmmm. Now that’s odd. He enters an orange room and, zizzzippp! He’s sliced to pieces by a wire grill! WTH?

In another room we find five people: Police officer Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), pissed-off Worth (David Hewlett), paranoid conspiracy theorist Dr. Holloway (Nicky Guadagni), prison escape artist Rennes (Wayne Robson), and mathematician Leaven (Nicole DeBoer). Like the recently sliced ‘n’ diced other guy, none of them knows where they are or how they got there. Quentin informs the others that some cubes contain lethal traps, which he learned by nearly being killed by one, but other cubes offer safe passage.

One by one, they travel from cube room to cube room in what seems to be a never-ending maze of cubes, trying to figure a way out. One by one, they get killed by grisly manners until the remaining people meet a mentally challenged man named Kazan (Andrew Miller). But Kazan has a secret: he’s an autistic savant that can perform prime number calculations in his head. That’s important because they’ve figured out the safe rooms without any traps have certain numbers stamped on the hatch walls. It seems that using calculus and algebra is a clue to determining which rooms are safe to enter. Meanwhile, they try and speculate why they’re there, who put them there, and where they are. Government? Aliens? A secret testing facility run by some weirdo organization? Someone’s idea of a sick joke? A dream?

In the end, the last remaining survivor makes it out to… to… hell if I know! In one of those endings that leaves it up to the audience to come up with their own endings, director/writer Vincenzo Natali, along with co-writers André Bijelic and Graeme Manson got their ideas, not surprisingly enough, from a 1961 Twilight Zone episode called Five Characters In Search Of An Exit (one of my fav’s). The characters here are engaging with their own personal problems, while not only trying to stay alive, but giving the audience a sorta who-done-it mystery as far as why they’re there. . . but with no final payoff.

This Canadian film is a bit reminiscent of the SAW movies, but without any main antagonist on a tricycle. It’s claustrophobic, bloody, and creepy and, if you’re into math, it’s a numbers-person dream!


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