Was The Maze Runner the best young adult dystopian fiction film adaptation this year? No. Is it still a pretty solid movie? Yes. In fact, there are a number of ways I believe the movie nailed it. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
What an incredible young cast. Much to my friends’ chagrin, I have not seen Teen Wolf, so I didn’t come into this movie with much knowledge of Dylan O’Brien’s acting talent. After watching O’Brien in this film, I’m in. He aptly portrays Thomas as the noble, yet flawed hero. Another standout performance was from Aml Ameen, who many may recognize from his role in The Butler last year. His Alby appears much more mature and deserving of the respect he receives from his fellow Gladers than he does in the novel. The ever-impressive Thomas Brodie-Sangster completely disappears into his role as Newt and helps to lighten the tone with his laid-back delivery. Master casting director Denise Chamian again gives us an unforgettable ensemble of talent. Ki Hong Lee, Will Poulter and the rest of the secondary characters also deliver stand out performances. Every Glader, even the ones with little or no lines, maintains the same level of energy and commitment as the leads.
I am personally quite pleased that they cut the telepathic connection between Teresa and Thomas. I don’t think it would have translated well from the page to the screen. The telepathic element also could have muddied the audience’s interpretation of the pair’s motives later on in the series. I also like that the sequence of events triggered by the arrival of Thomas happen much faster in the film. There was no slow snowball of incidents that raise suspicion amongst some of the Gladers about Thomas. In the film, Thomas causes an avalanche of trouble for the occupants of his new home that raises the stakes to a whole new level.
The world that production designer Marc Fisichella created is simply terrifying. His interpretation of James Dashner’s descriptions of the Glade far exceeded the scope of my imagination. I especially admired the care he took in designing shelters and structures that could be accomplished by a group of teenage boys building a society from scratch.
I must mention that there were two major relationships that didn’t receive as much attention as the book suggests. To be fair, the relationship between Thomas and Teresa is incredibly complex and difficult to squeeze in between all of the action sequences. What I truly missed was the connection between Thomas and Chuck. I wanted more Blake Cooper. While their final scene was beautifully done, it wasn’t built up enough to impact me with the same force that it did in the book. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It was scary, it was fun and I absolutely had a blast.