Grade: B+

Directed by Wes Ball
Starring Dylan O'Brien, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson

Unfortunately, the YA book-to-film adaptation craze isn't going anywhere, but if they start making them more like The Maze Runner, then everything's fine.

Dylan O'Brien stars as newcomer to a strange, Lord of the Flies-type of world where young men (really a group of mid-to-late teens) have taken a barren land and made it home. O'Brien's character is as frightened as anyone would be, having arrived via a metal cage thrusting out of an underground tunnel. His memory has been erased. He doesn't know a single person he's now facing. And, better yet, the entire community is surrounding by massive stone walls. He soon finds out that every month a new member is added to the group and this practice has been going on for some three years. Every day the walls open up, allowing for an entrance to a humongous maze. In true Flies fashion, the boys have set up their own form of government, electing each member a task. When our hero finally remembers his name is Thomas, the story really begins. Thomas follows his gut, which isn't necessarily welcome amongst the rest of the group, especially tough guy Gally (Will Poulter). After Thomas's first adventure in the maze begins to turn things for the worse, Gally and the guys suspect Thomas may be in on the entire scheme. When a girl is delivered in the box with a note that says she's the last one they'll ever get, things only get worse for Thomas when she wakes up saying his name. A "choose the sides" conversation happens among the group and the very core of everything they've built begins to crumble around them. In a final pursuit of freedom, the true brave ones are revealed.

The synopsis alone is enough to get you on the edge of your tows, and director Wes Ball handily delivers. The movie never feels the need to over-rush anything, allowing for a slow pace to really set the tone. I haven't read the book the film is based on, but I'm guessing there must've been a lot of inward dialogue Thomas had with himself. As we've seen in other near-future YA dystopias, this effect is hard to translate onto screen. Ball does a great job, if not also for choosing an astounding cast. The little nuances he allows, like the bits of swearing here and there, are enough to keep it realistic and interesting for both younger and older crowds.

O'Brien, who most people probably recognize from MTV's Teen Wolf, makes for a capable frontman. Poulter, who broke out in last year's We're the Millers, gets some of the better moments, despite his character being so rigid. The rest of the gang is full of newcomers that definitely shine. Ki Hong Lee, as runner Minho, is subtle in just the right way. And, Blake Cooper, as Chuck, fills the little brother role with ease.

As a movie bound with several high level effects, nothing seemed too distracting or overwhelming. Even the machine/animal hybrids that infect the maze at night were convincing enough.

Without giving away any spoilers, the movie sets itself up perfectly for a possible continuation of the world it has created. It'll be interesting to see if the cast and the movie are interesting enough to audiences to warrant another movie.

A hybrid of The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and a little The Goonies mixed in, The Maze Runner is a welcome change in the ongoing young adult battle of the future.

Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 113 minutes

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