Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Maze Runner ★★★

    As the box office reign of  "Guardians of the Galaxy"  and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" inevitably comes to an end, it lends the opportunity for another film to shift to the forefront and attempt to stimulate audiences nationwide. "The Maze Runner" is a science fiction tale that fulfills this elementary requirement, and it functions quite well considering the youth of the cast and the lack of experience in director Wes Ball. (This being his first feature length picture.)

    However, any film whose cinematic concern relies heavily on the intricacies of the plot, there will inescapably remain imperfections in other facets. Thomas, our naive and courageous protagonist, is never completely rounded out as a dynamic character. (Although, in the end, we can discern his, albeit diminutive, development through the effects of the major conflict.) His personality is derived from other character's memories and via distorted flashbacks that shift through dreams of his own.

    A less than quintessential tactic to understand our hero; nevertheless, sufficing here. In fact, Thomas' dialogue is starved in an effort to flesh out the personas of the other boys who inhabit this post-apocalyptic future, where no life seemingly exists, and where the obstacle to freedom is a towering maze. (For those of you who necessitate a plot summary, please bear with me.)

    There is Alby, the leader of the "Gladers," who serves his purpose as guide to Thomas. Newt, the second in command, who understands Thomas' train of thought and subsequently becomes a friend. Chuck, a young boy who warrants the comparison to "The Goonies' " Chunk without the annoying tendencies, operates as a mediator to the group. Additionally, Chuck essentially becomes the audiences' relative body to the film, as he is virtually tied to the ramifications of his peers' decisions and cannot escape the action. Lastly, there is the foil in Gally; a young man who highlights the few qualities of Thomas' that we are aware of through his extremely opposite approach to thought and action.

    The plot is simple enough to be expressed in the time allotted and complex enough to keep us puzzled until the end, where, unfortunately, all continuity is lost. An entity is collecting the youth of our nation and, month by month, sending them up into the "Glades," a small grassy area within the center of an impenetrable maze. All is routine and peaceful until a young boy named Thomas is sent into this enigmatic realm. His curiosity and pure stupidity give rise to numerous events, some of which justify consequence, all of which spur the plot further.

    Thomas aspires to be a "runner," an elite few within the group who run the maze and memorize the layout for future reference. Circumstance gives him the chance to complete his aspiration and persuade most to enter the maze to escape. A young girl who is designated as the last to be sent in, seemingly for procreation purposes, strengthens Thomas' resolve and sends these adolescents into the final stretch.

    "The Maze Runner" excels in a few aspects of its construction, and, therefore, it becomes noteworthy. Suspense is littered throughout the film and, although much of it stems from the "closing" of the maze's walls or characters squeezing through tight spaces, it never fails to entertain. Another notable scene of suspense includes the banishing of one member of the clan after he had been stung by a "griever," a mechanical creature that resembles an amalgam of a spider and any other unsightly organism that you can think of.

    Furthermore, a youthful cast projects an ambiance of quality acting and provides a solid experience. The other significant character in the picture--the maze--is constructed well enough to avoid a complete debacle. It towers, it is intimidating, and it actually consists of several features of movements and variations. Without these characteristics, we would be bombarded with a larger than life depiction of a "Temple Run" video game.

    Although the concluding scenes of the film could logically exist within the confines of the plot, they are unflattering to say the least, and they diminish the continuity of the picture as a whole. Humor, which had been relatively absent, is suddenly introduced in a tawdry fashion; emotional restraint, which had been exercised successfully, is completely forgotten. There is a point where the film could have effortlessly ended and relieved us of these unmotivated scenes of ineptness. They were overdone, and it was a costly mistake.

    While a sequel has already been slated for a September 2015 release, one has to wonder what Hollywood deems as commercially successful. I guess a weekend in which the picture earns back its budget fits the bill, even if it is the only such time in its run.

    I will remain adamant about the notion that "The Maze Runner" is the best film that this story can conjure, unless, of course, subsequent installments prove otherwise. The dramatic irony that is introduced in the denouement of this origin tale will ultimately dominate the sequel, and this is never a sure-fire way to create dramatic effect. After all, in subsequent treatises, the maze will be departed and another conflict must prevail. What good is a maze runner with no maze to run?

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