Oh thank heavens, another movie about vaguely attractive young people with no personality living in a half-assed dystopian future. We haven’t had one of those in at least two weeks! The reviews for it across the board are basically positive, but riffing on “well, it’s surprisingly good given how terrible the other twenty movies are with this exact same plot line every year”.
So to be fair, it’s in the top tier of the endless series of young adult post-apocalyptic fiction that’s been all the rage since young adult fuck a vampire fiction started to wane. And it’s certainly closer in quality to something like The Hunger Games than Divergent, but that’s more because the bad stories in this genre are really quite terrible and numerous, not because The Maze Runner can really hold much of a candle to the Katniss Kronicles.
We open with a young man confused and riding in an elevator cage. He’s obviously the hero because when the doors open onto a poor man’s Lord of the Flies, he’s the blandly attractive white guy amongst a bunch of unrecognizable actors, and a few recognizable but not bland actors like Jojen Reed and the token fat kid. Nobody can remember anything but their names, one new dude shows up in a cage like this once per month, and they’ve established a peaceful little community that manages to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Oh and they’re in a big glade surrounded by enormous concrete walls that contain an immense maze. It opens every morning, closes every night, and there are monsters out there. But they’ve managed to start a mean tomato patch and build a still, so what more do you really need? Because they’re trapped in a glade, they call themselves the Gladers, which sounds more like the arch rivals of the Cul de Sac Crew rather than a group of post-apocalyptic survivalists.
And guys, I don’t know how to break it to you, but our blandly attractive guy Thomas is super special. I mean, he’s a blank slate and not smarter or stronger than anyone else, but by god he’s got a laminated Protagonist card, so he’s bloody well going to use it.
People who have been here three years, and yet this dude comes along and in three days manages to get all the shit done. He’s the first one to survive a night in the maze! He solves the maze! Figures out its secrets! Dude’s so awesome that on his second day they send them a girl in the cage elevator doohickey. A GIRL! Three years of post-apocalypse sausage party and this guy brings the ladies and a solution in 48 hours. Get the man some coffee, because whatever he is, he’s a closer.
It’s sort of a cliché in the dystopian YA aisle that none of the setups for any of the stories actually make the slightest bit of sense once you start to think about them. The Maze Runner is particularly egregious in this regard. It actually does a decent job of building tension and having a sort of emotionally honest core. And the story of trying to figure out what’s going on is interesting when it’s narrowly focused on the rules of the maze itself, but by the end when they mange to get out of the maze and get some answers (oh sorry to spoil that the conclusion of The Maze Runner involves running out of said maze), the entire story’s logic collapses in on itself in a singularity of complete idiocy.
But don’t worry, it sets itself up for a sequel that will undoubtedly be even more nonsensical, which started production two weeks ago, so I’ll have the bulk of this review ready to cut and paste two years from now when the next one comes out.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.