Okay, I broke my rule. I usually try to read the book before I see a movie if the book exists. “But Father…”, I hear you say, “…one should see the movie on its own merits!” Yeah, I hear you. It’s nearly impossible to capture the “feel” of the book in a movie, since it tends to be subjective to each reader. All that being said, I’m glad I just went ahead and put the disc in the Blu-Ray player.
Thomas can’t remember his name, his post-apocalyptic tailor, and he certainly can’t remember why he’s in a metal mineshaft elevator. In a Hunger Games style reveal, he is met by cheering (jeering, really) boys once the crate reaches the surface.
Lord of the Flies intrigue ensues, with rites of passage, boys being boys, and a good deal of exposition. Thomas (whose name returns during a wrestling match) rises quickly through the ranks of leadership by thinking logically, acting prudently yet boldly, and challenging the status quo of life in “The Glade”. The arch-browed Gally, who is quite happy with the pecking order and his ability to win a wrestling match, plays the Jack card and sets himself against Thomas on the weak premise of Glade seniority. Further, it seems that Thomas seems to have a little more memory than the others, which no doubt adds to Gally’s sour demeanor.
It turns out that these lost boys (there’s another reference for you) are in fact inside a giant (spoiler alert) maze. They know not how they got there, who put them there, or why they get food and new boys every month via the mineshaft crate elevator. One thing is certain though: The Maze is a nasty place to go.
Only the fleet-footed are chosen as official runners of the maze and Thomas gets chosen to help map the ever changing and moving walls inside. The plot (unnecessarily) thickens as a girl is served up on the elevator from nowhere. She’s “the last one ever” according to the doctor’s note in her hand, whatever that means. There’s a creepy first date joke in there somewhere.
After figuring out a way to use some of the unexpectedly serial-numbered robot spies from Jonny Quest that live in the maze to map new territory, the whole gang has to make the choice to run the maze to what is presumably freedom. Or is it?
All in all, this movie encapsulates most of the themes of the post-apocalyptic, anti-utopian, genre that seem to be so popular in young adult (and adult) authors and film directors these days: government is bad, we’ve destroyed the world, kids are caught in the middle, and they’re probably our last hope.
One wonders if the musings on oppressive government, the role of children in society, and the meditation on the horrors of war in these books and films is a cry from the artist to find where there is truth in rule without conscience, power without balance, and the sanctity of human life.
This movie explores some of those ideas in a generally family friendly and sometimes thrilling way. There’s even a little curly-haired everyman who just wants a happy ending. Of course, it’s no spoiler that the end of this maze is the beginning of the next one; a sequel is nigh.
Beware of some obligatory bad language to establish the “edginess” of the hero if you’re watching with the young’uns. Overall, it’s fun, it’s got some good expressions of friendship, showcases the importance of intelligence paired with courage, and the difficulty letting go of comfortable incarceration in order to achieve an uncomfortable freedom. Give it a watch.