Story by: Sheyda Mehrara
I found myself looking forward to the advanced screening of The Maze Runner regardless of the fact that I was only a little more than halfway through John Dashner’s book of the same name. Maybe it was because I was curious to figure out the maze, or to see Wes Ball’s directorial debut. Another silver screen adaptation that follows the recent successful stream of dystopian young adult novels, The Maze Runner details the story of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien of MTV’S “Teen Wolf”), who wakes up in that aforementioned elevator and is pulled out by a flock of boys as the newest member of the boys – and only boys —who inhabit The Glade, a strange village enclosed by towering walls that conceal an ever-changing maze. From the get go, it jumps into the story. It doesn't waste time giving you a backstory — in fact, that's the point. Thomas is told the only three rules of The Glade, and is expected to follow them if he wants to survive:
1) Do your part; 2) Never harm another Glader; 3) Never go beyond the walls.
Trying to figure out the backstory is why The Gladers are there and why we, as an audience, are watching. What's even more surprising is that I wasn't disappointed by any actor's portrayal of the actual characters. That rarely happens. Per usual, O'Brien surpassed any expectations, and he truly managed to personify the definition of curiosity as he tries to convince the other Gladers to pursue an escape plan.
And Will Poulter plays the perfect antithesis that you could actually empathize with as long-term Glade resident Gally. “Gally needed to be a bit more justified, and more accessible,” Pouter says, comparing his character in the book versus on screen. “Whereas Thomas is lacking in sensibility, Gally assesses things a little bit more conservatively.”
Not only did the movie capture the essential bond between The Gladers, it captured this overall darkness that The Glade projects. It did feel like a world that could actually exist, which made it even more difficult to turn away from the screen, if even for a moment. “Pretty much all of what you see in the Glade, the walls were extended with CGI, but it was all real,” says Poulter. “The maze doors functioned. It meant that we always had something to act on. It gave for a more natural performance … It was great knowing that the visual effects, although they were many, weren’t going to shroud the acting experience. It’s more character driven.”
The movie was shot in Baton Rouge, La., and the actors filmed in the heat of the South. Being surrounded in the actual elements made for a more believable performance out of the cast. All the sweat and blood — within reason — are real. Especially when the only female character Teresa played by Kaya Scodelario (Effie from the UK’s “Skins”) is tossed into the mix of Gladers later on in the movie. She doesn’t spend her time on screen trying to make friendly conversation or woo the boys. “I liked that she’s a mystery. You have to commit to the stories to get who she is,” Scodelario says. “For some reason, we are scared of seeing a woman like that in film. We want them to be softened and to be delicate. She doesn’t follow that pattern.”
Critics have argued that Teresa doesn’t serve much as a character, but Scodelario disagrees, mentioning that you must commit yourself to the whole trilogy to fully understand her character and the importance of her role. She explains that The Maze Runner shouldn’t be judged based on the sex of the whole cast. They were committed to tell the story and push boundaries.
There is one question that stays with you when all is said and done: Would you stay or try to leave if placed in The Glade? “Dylan would be the one to escape,” both Poulter and Scodelario agree.
“I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m too scared to escape,” Poulter says. “I’ve always wanted to be a Lost Boy, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to do this movie was because I saw the parallels with Hook and Lord of the Flies. Yeah, I’d kick it in the Glade.”
“I’d stay with you for a bit, but I don’t like staying in one place for too long,” Scodelario says. “I’m a bit of an explorer, so I think I’d venture on my own out of boredom.”
Whether you’ve read the books or not, whether you would try to escape or not, the movie stands on its own to provide a thrilling experience. Take into account the engaging nature of these types of films, an impressive first-time feature film by Ball or just the fresh batch of faces, and it’s hard not to leave the theatre in some way satisfied.
The Maze Runner is out in theatres nationwide tomorrow, Sept. 19.