Will it Make a Good Film: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner

Expected Release Date: September 19, 2014

Director: Wes Ball

Based on: The Maze Runner by James Dashner, published 2009

Overview: In a dystopian future, adolescent boys are placed in a maze with monsters as part of some unexplained experiment. Yet another YA sci-fi film, which will have to work hard to differentiate itself from The Hunger Games and Divergent.

Working in its favor: The best thing this film has going for it is that it’s not the book, and James Dashner did not write the script. I commend him for a thrilling plot, but his prose leaves much to be desired. The story has blockbuster potential – scary monsters, action sequences, a male protagonist, kids versus THE WORLD – but the writing is distractingly unpolished while the characters lack the depth of thought and emotion that I believe teenagers are capable of. A good screenwriter could fix both issues, and a good director will guide his actors so that we assume the interior lives of the characters are complicated and nuanced. I have hopes that both of these ends will be accomplished.

The setting of this film is also working in its favor. Dystopian films are in vogue, lately, and The Maze and The Glade are of a scale that they will be frightening and thrilling in theaters, and should translate well to the screen while not taxing the imagination of the audience.

Finally, I believe this film has an excellent cast, in that the young people in it have proven themselves in small screen or lesser known roles, but are relatively unknown and therefore have no fame to work against. You might recognize Dylan O’Brien from Teen Wolf, or Kaya Scodelario from Skins.

Potential issues: As I mentioned, the book lacked believable characters. Whether this will matter on the big screen remains to be seen, but it could be problematic when the reason characters do what they do is almost always “just because.” This is not something I’m certain can be cured by thrilling action sequences and a fast pace, although I’m hopeful that the director and screenwriter will make it work.

Wild card(s): The Grievers. These monsters are bizarre and disturbing, yet I also found them hard to visualize when reading. For film, I think they’ll need to be simplified in order to be effective, and strike the right balance between animal, goo, and machine. My fear is that, if this is not done right, the Grievers will be comical instead of terrifying.

Director Wes Ball is a relative unknown, who could make or break this film.

Verdict – WIMAGF?: Yes, in that this will be very fun to watch. No, in that it will be fun – yet forgettable.