The Maze Runner (2014) is now out in theaters in the U.S. Woo! I saw it on Sunday at one of those dine-in theaters (the theater was awesome — I got to eat real mac n’ cheese).
Before we start the review, you should know: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for The Maze Runner book by James Dashner as well as the film (nothing huge).
If you read my reviews (see below), you’ll know that my opinions of The Maze Runner series are mixed at best, but I was still looking forward to the seeing the film. And overall, I think the movie was pretty good. It changed some aspects of the book for the screen (as most adaptations do), but still kept the heart of the book alive. Here’s how I thought it measured up:
The big picture:
Rest assured fans, most of the major plot points were in the film, and all of the major players were present. The Maze Runner film simply ran at a much faster pace than the novel (there wasn’t really a lot of time to get to know how The Glade worked or to get to know the histories of the characters). Many of events were truncated into larger events; some things were cut in the end, and some things added (especially in the beginning, to show how the Gladers interact and live).
The one major difference from the book is that Teresa doesn’t spend 90% of it unconscious, which works in the film’s favor, and also is a result of the film itself. It would have been really hard to do scenes with Thomas and Teresa talking telepathically without the film coming off as cheesy. Despite some of the changes, additions, and omissions, I thought that the film really did keep to the spirit of the book(s) and many of the changes were for the best.
The devil in the details:
The details of the film are where many hardcore fans of Dashner’s book are going to have a problems. Many of the details were changed for what is likely a variety of reasons. Some examples of the small changes the film producers made:
- W.I.C.K.E.D. is now W.C.K.D. (still pronounced ‘wicked’). My guess behind this change? W.I.C.K.E.D. sounded too dorky/childish for the silver screen.
- Ben is stung after Thomas arrives, though no one knows how. My guess on this one is that they wanted to show how friendly Ben was before the change, to show the effect of the Griever venom.
- The Gladers have never seen the Grief Serum before (Teresa brings it with her in her pocket). Likely reason? To give Teresa something to do. Also, this change also has one major impact on the movie: Gally has never gone through The Changing.
There were also changes made to the ending that work in their own way (including a change to the discovery of the Griever Hole), and one major change to the ending that will leave you guessing and probably frustrated if you think they got it wrong. And, as I mentioned, there were major changes to Teresa’s role in the film and how much Thomas remembers.
If you’re a big stickler for the details, then this adaptation will probably annoy you, but the truth is that most of the changes simply work. Did they need to change some of these details? Probably not, but the changes certainly didn’t hurt the film. If anything, they helped. But I don’t want to go into too many of the details – I’ve gotta leave something for you to enjoy on your own!
As a film:
As a film The Maze Runner holds up on its own as a pretty decent action movie and the acting is all spot on. I particularly enjoyed the performance of Thomas Sangster as Newt. Of all the actors, I thought his was the most nuanced (hinting, perhaps, at some of the thoughts he expresses in later books).
I also really enjoyed watching Will Poulter as Gally. In the book, Gally had gone through The Changing and remembered Thomas. This was the basis of his distrust/dislike of Thomas, but in the film he hasn’t gone through The Changing yet. Because of this change, Poulter has to work extra hard to make us believe in Gally’s somewhat irrational hatred of Thomas. And, wonderfully, he does. It was fun to watch.
Dylan O’Brien puts in a solid performance as Thomas and is much less annoying than his book counterpart. Kaya Scodelario (Teresa) was sorely underused, but it will be interesting to see how she is used in the sequel(s).
Visually, the film was quite stunning, especially shots of the Maze. The Maze looked almost exactly as I imagined it. And the SFX team did a decent job of portraying The Grievers, which were always going to be a difficult creature to show on film. I’m not sure I liked their spider mouths/scorpion tails (I don’t remember them from the books), but they were pretty creepy.
I thought this was a really solid film adaptation. It improved upon many of the slow parts of the book, while still keeping with the heart of Dashner’s work. If you’re very particular about details, you might have some problems with the film’s changes, but in all it was a pretty fun film to watch. I really hope they make the sequel (I hear it’s in pre-production) and the third in the series. It would be such a disappointment otherwise. Definitely worth seeing if you like the books, or are just looking for a fun action movie to see.