The Maze Runner

Maze-Runner-Alby-Aml-Ameen-Gally-Will-Poulter-Newt-Thomas-Brodie-Sangster

 

DIR:  Wes Ball •  WRI:  Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers • PRO:  Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Lee Stollman, Lindsay Williams • DOP:  Enrique Chediak •  ED: Dan Zimmerman •  DES: Marc Fisichella •  MUS:  John Paesano  CAST:  Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Patricia Clarkson

 

Based on a popular novel by James Dashner, The Maze Runner is the latest in a seemingly inexhaustible stream of “young adult” dystopian narratives.  This time, the action takes place in a mysterious “Glade” at the centre of an ever-changing maze, and our cast play a group of boys (plus one girl) who find themselves mysteriously deposited there with no memory of their pasts.  The arrival of one particular boy, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), sparks unrest in the Glade, and eventually leads to a posse making a break for freedom, while trying to evade the creepy part-mechanical monsters that police the maze.  Like many of its precursors – from the well-regarded Hunger Games to last spring’s crushingly dull DivergentThe Maze Runner deals with young people rebelling against systems over which they are denied control, and it’s perhaps this eminently relatable theme that has attracted viewers to dystopian narratives, while other attempts at post-Twilight “young adult” franchises, such as Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (both 2013), have floundered.

 

The Maze Runner is more straightforwardly action-oriented than most of its predecessors, and director Wes Ball (making his feature debut after beginning his career in visual effects) handles the set-pieces with economy and poise.  A number of scenes involving characters negotiating the shifting maze are genuinely tense, although as the maze’s geography has been mapped before we enter the story, the thrills come mainly from the brute force of its transformations rather than the more cerebral excitement of solving its mysteries.  On the topic of brute force, The Maze Runner is also surprisingly violent for a film aimed principally at a young audience, particularly when it enters the final stretch, as infighting and monster attacks whittle down the cast.

 

As Thomas, Dylan O’Brien gives a committed performance, carrying the bulk of the narrative.  Save for some rather ham-fisted exposition delivered by a wasted Patricia Clarkson, the film hews closely to Thomas’s perspective, and he makes for an appealing hero.  Of the other boys, Will Poulter makes the strongest impression as the antagonistic Gally, his brow permanently furrowed in indignation.  Kaya Scodelario, after an interesting if truncated turn in Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (2011), feels a little bit beyond the tag-along role she plays here.  As Teresa, the only girl to be deposited in the Glade, she arrives half-way through the action and is given little to do.  Presumably, her character has a more significant role to play in subsequent instalments.

 

Those subsequent instalments are the name of the game here, because The Maze Runner, like so many other teen-oriented science-fiction opuses, eventually devolves into a trailer for prospective sequels.  It’s a shame that the film signs off with a craven bit of franchise speculation because, while the late twists leave plenty of questions hanging, they also cancel out many of the distinguishing features of the narrative up to this point.  Still, for what it is, the film mostly works.  The cast are game, the action sequences are effective, and the monsters are scary.   Viewers could do a lot worse in this subgenre, and they may find themselves hoping The Maze Runner proves to be more of a Hunger Games than a Mortal Instruments at the box office.

 

David Turpin

12A (See IFCO for details)

113 minutes

The Maze Runner is released 10th October 2014

The Maze Runner  – Official Website

Share

Cinema Review: Now Is Good

 

DIR/WRI: Ol Parker  PRO: Christine Langan, Adam Kulick, Peter Hampden  DOP: Erik Wilson  ED: Peter Lambert  DES: Amanda McArthur • CAST: Dakota Fanning, Paddy Considine, Jeremy Irvine, Olivia Williams, Kaya Scodelario

 
Young adult novels are becoming increasingly common for film adaptations. What with the recent success of The Hunger Games and, more notably, the Harry Potter franchise, it seems that every other film is catering to that demographic. Now Is Good is based on a popular young-adult novel, Before I Die. However, instead of being a fantasy / sci-fi novel or featuring vampires, Now Is Good deals with something far more grounded in reality. Tessa, played by Dakota Fanning, is a teenager diagnosed with leukaemia living with her divorced father (Paddy Considine) in London. Her illness has been with her from an early age and, unsurprisingly, dominates both their lives on a daily basis. The films follows Tessa as she attempts to work through a ‘bucket list’ that includes taking drugs for the first time, losing her virginity and breaking the law.

 

The writer/director, Ol Parker – who previously worked on TV series Grange Hill – makes a reasonable attempt at dealing with both the seriousness of Tessa’s illness together with the usual teenage misadventures. In fact, the opening is a cringe-worthy scene involving a fumbling first date with a random man picked up at a rave. The film shifts gear when the next-door neighbour, Adam (Jeremy Irvine), begins a relationship with her. As her condition deteriorates, both Adam and her father trying to come to terms with it and make peace with one another. The plot of the film follows a reasonably straightforward pattern and follows the book more or less to the letter. While the topic of leukaemia and the main character’s illness is never far away, the story does try to develop an ill-fated coming-of-age story. The script is quite safe and doesn’t go any darker than absolutely necessary. The film is, after all, based on a young adult novel so there’s little room to manoeuvre or elaborate on.

 

Dakota Fanning’s wispy frame fits the character and Paddy Considine turns in a reasonable performance. Overall, the cast worked well with what they had. The real issue of the film is not with that but with the script. There never feels like it can go anywhere. Most of the scenes where Tessa is trying to cross something racy or illegal off her list is treated with kids’ gloves. It doesn’t necessarily have to go into Breaking Bad territory, but there was a chance to make a more real and genuine response to a terminal illness than stealing lipstick from a pharmacy. Ol Parker’s camera work is quite beautiful and Erik Wilson’s cinematography is on par with his work on Submarine and Tyrannosaur. It’s a shame there wasn’t a stronger script behind Now Is Good as it’s an intriguing premise; mortality being faced at an early age. Unfortunately, Now Is Good is a trite tearjerker that will go over with teenage audiences but little else.

Brian Lloyd

15A (see IFCO for details)
105mins

Now Is Good  is released 19th September 2012

 

Share