The Maze Runner Trilogy is something that has only just been on my radar in the past few years. I have been aware of the films, the concept and lead characters but something stopped me from seeing it.
I think that I felt that after the Hunger Games phenomena that The Maze Runner series was just another stab at the Young Adult novel to film phase that has included the Divergent series. Whilst I enjoyed the Hunger Games I preferred the book series. In this case I had not read any of James Dashners source material which was on the New York Times Bestseller in 2014 and so came to the series fresh and open minded.
BE WARNED SPOILERS WILL BE INCLUDED BELOW
The biggest problem with films like the Hunger Games and Divergent is their key unique selling point. Hunger Games had the Games, Divergent was the caste system and for Maze Runner it was the maze. This works for the first film which inevitably ends with the heroes escaping the maze but leaves the author/director a problem for the second and third parts, you have solved the unique problem and now have to invent other mechanisms to drive the plot. All of the aforementioned film series have done this in different ways. In this case each of the three films are refreshingly distinct with the key focus on the characterisation of the lead players and develop the story from out of the maze, to the trial of surviving the Scorch Trials in the real world before the resolution of bringing down the enemy.
The whole concept of the Maze Runner series is your standard dystopian future. A zombie like virus to which only some children may provide the cure has devastated the world and a company will stop at nothing to cure it. If you ignore the strange biological/scientific reason for wiping kids minds and testing them in a lethal maze then the story is an engaging mystery. I imagined more of a ‘Lord of a Flies’ feel to the company of boys in the glade but wasn’t overly disappointed by the well organised society they had established.
The cast fitted well across the three films. Dylan O’Brien made a charming and engaging lead who fitted the part well. The supporting cast were good although I am starting to feel that Aiden Gillen is in danger of being typecast and his villain, Janson, was rather one dimensional, his motives were unclear and his duel of wits with Thomas, whilst thrilling was severely underplayed heading more towards the pantomime villain.
Where the film excels are the ethical questions raised, is it right to exploit children if the end result is a world saving cure? How far should industry go to save people if that was what WCKD were planning to do at all? This was a missed opportunity, in the last film the Death Cure, it seemed to look as if the company would use the drug cure to control the survivors for power and profit, this would have been interesting if explored more deeply.
The films have their flaws, the doctor was underused, it felt that there was so much more to her character. I thought for most of the film that she was going to be revealed as Thomas’s mother, a twist which would have added another dimension. The various plans in the film, both by WCKD and the resistance, had big enough holes to drive a bus through and the ending was a little lacklustre, yes some had survived, but the free city had fallen, the cure, whilst within Thomas, was now inaccessible as the labs that could have researched it were now gone. It felt like there is more story there to explore but maybe it is nice to have a film that doesn’t just wrap everything up in a neat bow. History is full of nearly’s and a complete victory is rare, perhaps we aren’t ready for such a thing in our films yet.
The film excels in its portrayals of personal relationships. Thomas and Theresa’s relationship was an odd one but compelling, these two obviously had a deep connection but the film never explained why and so ultimately her death was insignificant to the audience this was counterbalanced by the death of Thomas Brodie-Sangsters, Newt. His relationship with Thomas was close and endearing, it was perhaps the deepest connection Thomas had in the whole film, in fact the bromance between the three leads (including Ki Hong Lee’s, Minho) was a solid thread running through the film and, to me what the films were all about. In a similar vein the relationship between Jorge played by Giancarlo Esposito with Brenda (Rosa Salazar) was interesting but under used. They appeared to have an almost father/daughter dynamic which was never fully explained.
All in all the films are an enjoyable romp and the action scenes were excellent. It was well acted and directed although the story lacked some key elements and some aspects were under explored and opportunities missed. These films are about the bonds of friendship and what people are willing to do for one another and not the unknown masses.
Into the Nebula Score:
The Maze Runner 8/10
The Scorch Trials 6/10
The Death Cure 6/10