Thursday, September 25, 2014

Failure of advertisement

Yesterday I saw the movie "The Maze Runner" based on the book (which I never read) for young adults that carries with it several problems I'd like to discuss. Of course, anything I speak of can only refer to the movie, so if the book explains something the movie doesn't then I have to apologize because there's no real way I can know that. So, on to the movie.

The story begins with a young man riding an elevator to the top of an open field where other boys and young men like him are looking down at him as it comes to a stop. He is frightened because he doesn't remember anything and the others don't seem interested in telling him.

After a night of celebration he recalls his name and learns what is going on. They are all trapped in the center of a large maze, whose doors close at night, and are traveled by maze runners during the day to find the way out. Meanwhile, the rest of the young men tend to "The Glade", the center of the maze where they live. Soon, things begin to happen, and their small world begins to change . . .

And that's the set up.

Now the good points of the story are a few. The maze has a good set up, is really well designed and looks pretty cool. There aren't really any unlikeable characters which modern young adult stories are usually swimming with either. Finally, the sequences in the maze are exciting, well done, and would have made this excellent.

Which leads me to my problems. The main one being, the maze takes up probably about twenty minutes of the whole movie. The majority of it takes place in young adult cliche land which I would like to call The Glade. Had the movie fully used the maze concept (puzzles, moving walls and sections, dangerous obstacles, and rest stops) it would have been far more interesting and original. As a result, most of the movie ends up so highly predictable that I couldn't help but lament at the wasted potential this concept had.

The Glade takes up most of the movie and it is simply not interesting in the slightest. If you have ever read a modern young adult story you can already guess the cliches coming.

Character that blames the main character for everything and is staunchly traditional in staying in The Glade (the character's actions at the end of the movie are so highly predictable and pointless that the story would have only improved with his absence), characters that do nothing but sit in The Glade and talk over and over again about stuff that ends up not mattering, and a girl character who might as well not even be there as her only characteristic is "the girl". Then there's the ending that everyone saw coming by the first dream at the beginning of the movie-- highly cliche and predictable, including a character death that was entirely unneeded and an escape that might as well have not happened because of what ends up happening next. Then there's the state of the world . . . needless to say, I tuned out by that point. I'd seen it all too many times.

There are also holes all over the place.

If you want to be pedantic, considering the "rules" of the maze, there are things that seem out of place. The Grievers, for instance are really superfluous to the story, and only seem to be there to add conflict. Considering the reveal at the end, they seem even more silly to have been put there. There's also a way they regain their lost memories which is quite silly, honestly. All in all, I really didn't see much point for them to be there except for the characters to have something to get killed by. Considering they're obviously made to test strength and none of the characters can even penetrate their shells on a basic level, they seem even more over the top.

When I said earlier that the story would have been better without the YA tropes, I meant it. A story about a group traversing a maze and testing their wits and skills is a great recipe for an adventure story. But because this is YA we have to have grimdark settings, lots of gratuitous death, a betrayer character (does anybody like these characters?), lots of arguing and angst, commentary about society to mirror the extremely boring Glade (its commentary that you've already heard hundreds of times by age twelve), and a "twist" ending that shows how horrible the world is and how the YA protags are the special ones to change it.

None of that was needed and stifles a potentially interesting story and smothers it in cliches. Maybe I'm just sick of post-apocalyptic grimdark stories, but I can't remember the last time I've seen an exciting one not marred with the same stock messages and telegraphed plot turns. A simple adventure story starting with a maze would have been a far better bedrock to build a potentially interesting story from, but I guess I should be used to not expecting much in the way of creative settings when YA dystopia sells too well now.

Despite my complaints, it was a solid movie. Well directed (could do without shaky-cam, though), well acted, well cast, and has engaging cinematography, The Maze Runner is not bad. You could do a lot worse in the YA world right now, and at least this one isn't obsessed with sex all the time. I would give it a go if you're a YA fan or like dystopian stories. Not so much if you're a fan of mazes or adventure stories. You don't get much of either here.

Give it a different title and I'd be more pleased with it. Unfortunately, there really isn't much maze running to be had.

All in all, solid movie.

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