Monday, September 08, 2014

Movie Review: The Maze Runner (2014)


From IMDB:


Thomas wakes up in an elevator, remembering nothing but his own name. He emerges into a world of about 60 teen boys who have learned to survive in a completely enclosed environment, subsisting on their own agriculture and supplies. A new boy arrives every 30 days. The original group has been in "The Glade" for two years, trying to find a way to escape through the Maze that surrounds their living space. They have begun to give up hope. Then a comatose girl arrives with a strange note, and their world begins to change. There are some great, fast-paced action scenes, particularly those involving the nightmarish Grievers who plague the boys. – Rating Unavailable as US Release Date is September 19, 2014

This happens once a month to some poor kid. The future sucks if you’re a kid. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia

What this outlier thinks of the Gladers... (Spoilers. MAJOR SPOILERS!!! DUH.... If you want to know what I think go straight to the end...)

Okay, first off I don’t usually think much of young-adult books let alone movies based off young adult books. You know the ones I’m talking about, The Twilights, The Hunger Games and Divergents of that particular genre. I would wait and see what the general consensus is of those movies and even if they were good I still wouldn’t watch it. The only opportunity I’ve had of watchin anything from this genre of films would be to accidentally catch bits and pieces of it as someone else was watching it or it happens to be playing within reach of my eyes and ears. And even then whatever bits and pieces I did catch didn’t impress me or make me want to stay longer and watch. Not even morbid curiosity could make me do it. In fact, to tell you the truth, morbid curiosity didn’t even rear its head let alone make an appearance with regards to movies of this genre. And since there are no ratings let alone early opinions for this movie to be found anywhere online, I shall be reviewing this in my usual way, based on it’s own merit. So here goes. 

Okay so you now that this movie is based off a young-adult novel. And if you’re a fan of this you’re thinking based on the trailers that maybe it’s something along the lines of Hunger Games or Divergent but with a maze thrown in for good measure. Well, that’s what I thought it was too. Yes, I do know a little about those movies and what goes on in them. I may not want to watch them but that doesn’t mean i’m completely ignorant of them. I don’t live under a rock.

Big, tall walls and one big gate. Welcome to the Glades. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia 

Anyway, this movie is focused upon Thomas who shows up at the Glades one fine day with no memory of anything not even his name. The Glades is the name given to a square patch of earth surrounded by walls on four side with gates in each of them. Everyday one of the gates will open at dawn and stay open until sunset. What’s beyond the gates? Well, you guessed it, the Maze. 

The Glades is home to a bunch of teenage boys, who got to the Glades one at a time a month at a time. By the time our hero shows up it’s been about three years. In those three years the Gladers, as they call themselves, have tried every conceivable way to get out or to get a view above the walls. So far, no luck. The main characters that you’ll meet are Alby, Newt, Gally, Minho and Chuck. 

What the Gladers know of the Maze they gathered from their own explorations of it. And exploring it falls to the Runners. No one else is allowed in the Maze, it’s one of their cardinal rules. Now you’re thinking this sounds a bit like Hunger Games or Divergent where they had factions and teams. Well this one does but there’s no trial or games or test or a hat to decide our hero’s future team. He just sorts of falls into it.

See how small the people are and then notice how far the wall goes. It’s pretty much the same in the other direction too. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia 

Anyway, about the maze, as mentioned the gates opens at dawn and stays open till sunset. The Gladers are warned not to enter the maze if they are not Runners and even if you are a Runner you have to get out before sunset because come sunset a creature they call the Griever comes out. Griever? Isn’t that what they call those women that get hired to cry at funerals? Anyway, the Grievers in this case are not women nor do they grieve. If anything they cause grief for the Gladers that find themselves trapped in the maze after sunset. 

Anyway the first half is pretty typical, hero wanders around and tries to fit in while figuring out what’s what and who’s who. It gets interesting when he encounters a Runner in the forest while on a trip to get fertilizer. Yes, he is asked to go into the forest to get fertilizer. Another thing that was weird about this is that on his way he encounters a grave marker with the name George on it and just below this marker and clearly visible is a ribcage swarming with flies. Why is it weird? Well, because it is completely irrelevant to the story apparently as our hero doesn’t bring it up ever. Well, while looking at this odd scene the Runner pops up and screams at him that he’s seen him and that he’s to blame. The Runner has we find out later been stung by a Griever and that this has never happened before. Now prior to this we are told that the Runners go in every morning as a team. So the question is, where are the other Runners? Do they go in there as a team and then once inside they go their separate ways? Or maybe this time they were ambushed by a Griever and then they separated to escape it. If so what kind of team mate do you have that leaves you and then abandones you completely without looking for you? Maybe I’m reading too much into it. 

Anyway as mentioned this being stung during the day is strange enough that Alby their designated leader decides to join the Runners in their next outing to figure it out. Maybe they have CSI like abilities to help them. Three years they couldn’t find their way out. Three years no one alive has seen a Griever and come back alive and some how this time they’ll figure out why a Griever would sting during the day. Anyway, they barely make it back and while Minho, the leader of the Runners, is carrying Alby on his back and making his way towards the gates it begins to close and no one waiting at the gate tries to come in to help them. Rules are rules apparently and even when you can help someone you shouldn’t break it. Except of course our hero who by this time has remembered his name when during a wrestling match the night of his arrival he bumps his head and remembers that his name is Thomas. Bumps to the head apparently help when you have amnesia, or so the movies would like you to believe.

This happens every day. There isn’t anything else to do in the Glades. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia 

So the gates close on Minho, Thomas and the unconscious Alby. Alby’s unconscious because he was stung. Anyway, trapped inside they need to find a place to hide. Thomas comes up with a brilliant idea when he notices a wall covered in creeping vines. His idea is to hang Alby up in those vines to hide him. While pulling Alby up the vines, a Griever shows up and Minho being a Runner does what he does best. He runs away, leaving Thomas to hold onto Alby and keeping him from falling back down. Somehow, while holding on he slips below the curtain of vines and to his surprise there’s enough space for him to hide. That’s sort of weird. If that space was already there why not just hide in there after making a dense camouflage made of those vines? After all Thomas manages to hide in there just fine without the Griever spotting him when it walks by. 

Anyway, the Griever passes by and Thomas ties off the vine and leaves Alby to find have a look at the Griever. The Griever of course spots him and begins chasing him. During this chase you discover that the Griever is an animal-machine hybrid. It’s really ugly has like eight legs and a tail. The face looks like across between a plump green raisin and a slimy nose booger with teeth. And it can climb walls. Anyway, he runs for a bit and out of nowhere Minho comes back and tells him to follow him. Where the hell has he been this whole time? Why come back now? Anyway, the run and come up to a section of the maze that’s changing, the run down a path as it begins to close but Thomas stops and waits. So you can guess what happens next, right? He barely escapes leaving the Griever to be crushed right at the end. 

Morning comes and the make it out of the maze. Funny thing is, when Ben the Runner jumped Thomas after being stung you’d assume that his change from normal Ben to crazy Ben would have taken hours. But apparently in Alby’s case it’s different. A whole night after being stung and he doesn’t show signs of going nuts and what’s more when they caught Ben they kept him isolated in a caged pit and then forced his crazy ass into the maze at sunset to survive on his own. Alby’s special because he’s their leader i guess.

The maze is changing and big blocks are falling and rising and yet Minho’s hair is perfectly gelled. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia 

Well, Alby’s out and Thomas is still curious about the Griever so he decides to go back to have a look. A bunch of them go back and surprise, surprise the walls that look like they weigh several hundred tonnes and the machinery that moves them didn’t turn the Griever into Griever slush but left just enough pieces for them to discover. What did it leave? A cylinder with a blinking light on one end and a display flashing the number seven. So they take it back. 

Not long after their return to camp and while Gally the village pessimist is trying to get Thomas punished for breaking the rules they hear a loud horn. The sound signals the arrival of another boy but oddly enough this is too soon. So off the go to the lift to check it out only to find a girl in it. The girl manages to open her eyes for a while and calls to Thomas before passing out. In her hands is a piece of paper with the words, ‘This is the last one. Ever.’ 

So now, Alby their leader is out, they’ve got a blinking cylinder from a Griever and a girl shows up. If I remember it was at this point that Minho asks Thomas to meet him in the forest. In the forest Minho leads him to a hut that only Runners are allowed in and shows him a scale model of the entire maze. He also tells him that they completed it a while ago and Alby decided to not tell anyone else in order to not cause panic or demoralise the others. If this were true it’s still hard to believe that none of the other Runners would mention this either in confidence to someone else or in a fit of frustration. Think about it, you’d have to keep running into the maze everyday for no other reason that to keep up a lie while not finding any new path or a new clue to a way out. It would piss me off.

This is what most guys look like when they see a hot girl sleeping. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia 

After this little reveal and a little bit more information regarding the maze they both decide to go back in and have a look at a specific area of the maze. An area with the same designation as the the number flashing on the side of the cylinder. When they go to check the area out they discover that the cylinder acts like a switch opening an area that apparently leads to the lair of the Griever that the cylinder belongs to. 

Anyway later, the girl wakes up, causes a commotion which Thomas helps calms down. As they talk she shows him two vials which she has in her pocket. They are interrupted when someone calls Thomas to say Alby is now awake. They go over and see that Alby is in writhing and in pain. Out of the blue, Thomas suggests they use what’s in the vials to help Alby. His reasoning, it couldn’t possibly hurt or make things worse since he’s already suffering. So they all come to the Glade in a lift with amnesia that never goes away, the Glade is surrounded by an ever-changing maze that has a mutant-machine hybrid prowling the dark and a girl shows up with a mysterious liquid in vials. Yes, let’s use that to help our sick leader, it couldn’t possibly turn him into a monster if it doesn’t kill him first. So they stick him with the vial and he passes out. When he comes to they find him sitting alone and sobbing. When asked if he’s okay and if he remembers anything, he says he remembers it all and that Thomas is to blame. Then he stops talking. That’s nice. 

As if all that’s happened isn’t enough suddenly the mysterious people behind the maze decides to open all four gates to the maze. This causes general panic among the Gladers. With all the gates open it means that come sun down the place will be swarming with Grievers. And of course that’s exactly what happens. A lot of kids are killed but after what seems like a short rampage and killing spree the Grievers go back into the maze. In the last moments of the rampage as a group of the Gladers defend themselves against a Griever, Alby who is among them manages to knock off the stinger on the tail of the Griever before it kills him. When that Griever decides that Alby’s death is enough for the evening and goes back to the maze Thomas has a sudden insight. He decides to stab himself with the stinger. His insight? Everyone who has been stung begin to remember and whatever they remember points back to him. Of course they use the second vial to cure him and he recovers with his memory fully restored. Isn’t that nice that she had just two of those vials?

The run into the maze and out every day. You’d think they’d look fitter but they don’t. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia 

Memory fully restored he tells those that believe him that this is all a test. That all of them have been under observation.That this was all done on purpose. Meanwhile, the Gladers are split into two factions. One on Gally’s side who want to restore things to the way it was and those that want to follow Thomas and find a way out. No prizes on who is in control. So when Gally decides to punish Thomas and Teresa by offering them to the Grievers and their masters they execute their plan. Those allied with Thomas help him escape and they make their way into the maze with whomever else is willing to join them. 

So the happy group make their way through the maze back to where Thomas and Minho found the lair of the Griever. Surprisingly nothing happens to them during this little trip which is odd. Earlier they found it odd that Ben was stung during the day. And then of course after all the commotion the gates were left open for the Grievers to come and go as they please. So what’s happening here? Where are the Grievers? Anyway, they make it to the lair and guess what? That’s where the Griever was. They rush the Griever and somehow manage to hold their own and push it over the edge. Meanwhile a couple of Grievers are climbing up the same wall that the Griever they just pushed off. So what gives? Can Grievers climb walls or not? Or only some can and others can’t? Make up your mind. 

Well, the two Grievers push them up against the door which now needs a combination to open the lock. And Thomas thinks that the sequence in which the different areas of the maze open in a month is the key to opening the lock. Why? Why would anyone who designed such a complicated maze choose a that as a combination?

They’re running away from Grievers that look like living slimy boogers with lots of tiny sharp teeth. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia 

Anyway it isn’t a surprise that the combination is the right one and they find themselves in a corridor. A very long one. They walk a bit until they find a door with an exit sign on it. And they open it only to find themselves in a fancy laboratory where everyone is dead. The look around and Thomas decides to push a flashing red button which initiates a video playback. They watch a woman explain everything. 

She explains that the world outside has been destroyed by the sun and that those that survived it was then beset by a virus, a disease that destroyed the brain. That only the young could survive it. But they needed to know why, so the maze was created to test out their theories and hypothesis and that they were the ones choses to take it. But because not everyone agreed with what they were doing they were now under attack. She kills herself at the end of the video. When they look away from the screen they find Gally standing in front of them with a gun in his hand. Gally’s been stung. He threatens to kill Thomas but in between the threats by Gally and pleading from Thomas, Minho manages to throw a spear right through Gally’s heart but not before Gally lets off a shot. Chuck is shot. If I haven’t mentioned Chuck before let me just explain that Chuck is a cherubic looking fat kid who’s death is supposed to pull at your heartstrings. 

Well, thats not the end because while Thomas is blubbering over Chucks’ death the doors open and armed men enter and take them away. They’re ushered into a helicopter and told everything will be okay as they fly towards what’s left of a city. Meanwhile you get a shot of the woman in the video wiping off the blood from her head while she casually mentions that it’s on to second phase. And that’s the end.

So this is after the Grievers rampage and everyone looks pretty decent right? Shirts still look ok and the hair is perfect as usual. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia 

Now I’m not to sure if I mentioned that I don’t quite remember the exact sequence of the events in this movie, so if i didn’t I’m mentioning it here. The scenes above are what I remember as I’m writing it. Overall though, with regards to the movie, I thought it was a fairly decent movie. The characters strangely enough don’t stand out. They’re unremarkable. Unimpressive. Forgettable for some reason. And this for a movie that is supposed to have sequels is a little odd. The lead just seemed to me like a panicky sort of fellow. And Teresa didn’t really make much difference either. She brought a note and two vials and she appears in his dreams. That’s it. 

The other main characters that survive, Newt and Minho. What’s their purpose? Newt’s role throughout the movie was just as Alby’s replacement and even then it felt like anyone else could have done it. Minho? Well, he’s a Runner. Maybe he turned out to be Thomas’s sidekick but frankly speaking it didn’t feel that way either. 

In the end you discover that the maze is just the first step in a larger plan but what’s the plan? Usually at the end of movies like this you are left at the edge of your seat. You want the answers now but that didn’t happen to me. I wasn’t left curious or wanting more. That pretty much sums up the movie. It’s filled with characters and elements that don’t seem to matter much. You’re given little crumbs of exposition that help the story to move along to the next scene and the next. You get nothing of substance. Your stomachs full but somehow you’re still not satisfied. It’s strange this movie. I wasn’t bored but neither was I completely entertained. I can’t say if this young-adult novel based film is better than the others as I haven’t seen the others so I can’t say it’s bad either.

After 2 years of mapping they completed it and kept it in an unguarded hut. And no one went in to sneak a peek apparently. ©20th Century Fox Malaysia 

If you’re looking for an entertaining movie and you’ve seen everything else this isn’t a bad movie to settle for. If you’re worried it’s going to be another Twilight or Hunger Games or Divergent, I can safely say that Maze Runner isn’t like that, at least from what I can tell. There is no love story thrown into the mix so you don’t have to worry about the lead actor and actress swooning at each other. All in all this movie tries to be a full on action adventure set in an interesting environment but for some reason it just didn’t draw me into the story or impress me.

So on it’s own merit I give it a decent 3 out of 5. 

The Maze Runner opens this 11th of September in Malaysia so go watch it and find out for yourself if it’s good or not.

I’d like to thank the team at ChurpChurp and 20th Century Fox Malaysia for letting us watch The Maze Runner well before everyone else!

And thank you to GSC @ Berjaya Times Square for having us at your cinemas!


  1. Anonymous8:14 am

    That was not a review, that a a re-telling of the movie.... :\

    Not going to bother getting spoiled.

    1. Hey there,

      Apologies for ruining it for you but in my defense i did say there'd be spoilers. Also i did mention i couldn't really remember the sequence of events exactly. Anyway, this is my opinion look up what others may think and then decide.

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment stranger! :)

  2. hi Gollumpus, i baru abis baca..nice review :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading my review Ajami!

  3. I loved the visual effects.  The CGI was just right, it was not over the top or looked like the production hit the bottom of the budget. 

    1. Hi Thomas! Yeah the visual effects were as you say, just right. It didn't distract or overwhelm everything else. Thanks for visiting!