Monday, September 22, 2014
The Maze Runner 
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RE.com (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review
At first glance, The Maze Runner  (directed by Wes Ball, screenplay by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin based on the novel [GR] by James Dashner [IMDb]) would appear to be the most "spartan" (in setup...) of the recent teen-oriented standup-and-fight against one-or-another dystopian future that (can) await us (think The Hunger Games , Ender's Game , Divergent  and The Giver  franchises):
In the current film's beginning sequence, we watch Thomas (played by Dylan O'Brian) a teenager, groggy, half-conscious, confused, remembering nothing (at this point) not even his own name, being taken by some kind of an industrial supply elevator up from some kind of subterranean compound "to the surface" (where? neither he, nor we the viewers, know). He is greeted "at the surface" by a group of some 30 or so other teenage boys, better adjusted to their circumstances, indeed (as we find out) surprisingly organized, yet with some pretty fundamental questions: (1) Again they have no idea where they really are. Yes, they find themselves in a relatively green and fertile "Garden" of sorts that they call "The Glade," but one which is enclosed by a giant and apparently impenetrable Maze made-up of enormous (and shifting-at-a-whim) concrete blocks, and (2) WHY are they there? Most believe it's some sort of an (unjust) PUNISHMENT. However, the outer boundary of their compound being A MAZE rather than a strict WALL suggests some sort of a (rather sick...) TEST.
The small society of teenage boys has made the best of it. Again, they've organized themselves, turned part of the Glade into a farm, made shelters (to protect against rain / some cold), and have made some increasingly halfhearted attempts at penetrating the Maze. Why "increasingly halfhearted"? Well the entrances into the Maze from the Glade would close at nightfall and anyone trapped still within the Maze faced certain death at the hands of ugly/vicious "Alien/spider-like" creatures called "The Grievers." So after apparently a number of attempts at finding a way out past the Maze (and losing a number of friends to said "Grievers") the group had largely given-up.
Enter Thomas, who, once he recovered from his initial shock of arriving in this strange "new world" (though he didn't remember next to anything at all of his previous one -- except for some occasional dream imagery that does not make sense to him), immediately seemed "different" to the others who had already been (trapped) in the Glade for some time. For one, though his recollections of "the Past" were clouded in "dream imagery" at least he had SOME memories at all. Then two, he seemed far braver / far more "gung-ho" about "finding a way out" than most of the Others who seemed resigned to their relatively comfortable / stable if ultimately rather meaningless Fate of living-out their lives in the Glade.
Enter then, to everyone's surprise, one month after Thomas' arrival to the surface, arrives a teenage GIRL who again comes with little to no memory of her previous life. However, she comes holding a note in her hand which declares: "She is the last one." Last one of what? Is she THE LAST GIRL? She's actually THE FIRST GIRL in this community of 30 or so teenage boys. Is she THE LAST PERSON who'll ever arrive in the Glade by way of the supply elevator? A palpable dread sets in among the thirty or so teenage boys present in the Glade, who had come to expect the arrival every month or so of a newcomer (up to this point, always another teenage boy) along with at least some "hard to grow" supplies. Now presumably that would end. Again, why? No one had a clue.
But Thomas (without ever really knowing why, except perhaps sensing a little bit more the intentions of the unseen Powers who appear to be running this strange world) urges the others to redouble their attempts at getting out of the prison-like if still somewhat comfortable Glade. Much then ensues ...
I hope that, if nothing else, the above description of the setup of the story is EVOCATIVE of ... a number of things: (1) of the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, and of the Biblical themes of The Fall and (taking Thomas to be something of a "Jesus figure") perhaps even of the Christian-postulated need on the part of humanity of "assisted Salvation," (2) of William Golding's 1940s-era teenage (boy) oriented novel The Lord of the Flies (about a post-apocalyptic society of teenage boys that disintegrates into savagery and confusion), and perhaps even (3) of Franz Kafka's 1920s-era novel The Castle (where the protagonist was not necessarily trying to flee confinement, but was definitely trying to "reach" said "Castle" where he hoped to talk to "the King"/whoever is "in Charge" to find out why his often admittedly pedestrian questions were not being answered (though his quest progressively became more more urgent / profound as he sought the answer to the most fundamental question: Why was he (the protagonist) "in the Town" at all Was there a purpose to his presence in the Town or was it all an accident ...).
In any case, the Maze Runner which plays with A LOT OF THESE THEMES sets up a very interesting allegory that yes, I'd like to see explored further.. and since it is based on the first of a series of books by James Dashner, I fully expect the continuation of this story to unfold on the silver screen in the years to come as well.
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