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‘Maze Runner’ finds its own path

  • 20TH CENTURY FOX
    Thomas (Dylan O’Brien)
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One of the problems with movies based on young adult fiction — "Divergent," "Ender’s Game" and "The Giver" — is that they tend to take a long time trying to explain the complicated world where the action unfolds.

In "The Maze Runner" — based on the James Dashner young-adult dystopian science fiction novels — director Wes Ball gets off to a faster start, in part by the way the movie is put together and because the story is so thin there’s no need to spend time explaining why things happen.

The film jumps into action when Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) awakens to finds himself in the middle of a walled world and no memory of his life before this brave new world.

The male residents, who appear at the facility every month and are known as Gladers, have set up their own world with rules, laws and leaders. Thomas throws all of that out of whack when he questions the way the world operates. He wants to solve the puzzle of the massive maze that keeps them captive in the pastoral world.

Their world is further complicated when the first female, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), arrives with a note saying she would be the last person to join the group.

The combination of Ball’s direction and the solid performances by the young cast gives the characters some depth. Will Poulter, whose career looked like it was over after "We’re the Millers," turns in a forceful performance as the muscle for the group, while Thomas Brodie-Sangster has grown from the young drum player in "Love Actually" to a strong enough actor to make the limited narrative of the film seem natural.

‘THE MAZE RUNNER’
Rated: PG-13
* *  1/2
Opens Friday

Ball has also done a good job creating the world, which comes across as feeling both grand and claustrophobic. The scenes where the runners — those who daily travel through the maze to map it — deal with massive sliding doors is not for anyone who gets uncomfortable in tight confines. The action is the film’s main draw.

The way screenwriters Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin broadly present Dashner’s themes about young people facing major life decisions gives the film a better chance of appealing to an older demographic.

And there’s enough explanation at the end, without slowing down the story, to put what happens in context.

Ball’s created balance between a thin, but solid script and first-rate action, and he doesn’t waste a frame doing it.

Review by Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee

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