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The Maze Runner (12a)
Running time 113 minutes
Rating:***
Ever found yourself trapped in a place that looks and sounds strange, is not very friendly and you’re surrounded by people whose motives you’re not too happy with? For some, this could be the Monday morning scenario, waking up to the prospect of going to work. If, however, you inhabit a film fantasy world, you are a lithe, handsome teenager, who wakes in a very strange place and, 113 minutes later, you are destined to save the world as you know it. The fantasy world as depicted in The Maze Runner is an idyllic woodland glade set in a gigantic concrete and metal maze, into which a collection of teenage boys are dumped, with memories wiped, and with no discernible purpose. Based on a trilogy of teen fantasy books by James Dashner (so two more films in prospect), the lads do all kinds of laddish things, such as dividing themselves up into builders, hunters, cooks, and then have parties where they fist-pump and chest-bump all evening. There is, of course, a door out of the glade, leading into the maze, but therein nasty things dwell and the rules say if you go in – not a good idea – you don’t come out. This woodland idyll lasts until a youngster called Thomas (by the way, they remember their names after a while) arrives and starts upsetting the locals by wanting to try to get out. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) manages to survive a spell in the maze, but this annoys the bully of the crowd called Gally (Will Poulter). Then a girl called Teresa arrives (Kaya Scodelario) and inevitably this really messes with the hormones. Eventually, Thomas persuades the lads – with Teresa’s help – that a break-out might just work. What follows is a good adventure-chase tale; its exciting, with plenty of action and good computer- generated images, given that this is a comparatively cut-price $34m film. Provided you concentrate on the action, the flexing pecs, and the strong aroma of testosterone, then the gaping holes in the narrative may not matter to a forgiving audience, which, rather like the devotees of The Hunger Games and Twilight, may well be around the average age of 15 or 16, and largely female. I wouldn’t want to ruin the ending for you, although you could say the film does that of its own accord, but The Maze Runner is a high concept movie. The basic idea of putting people in a maze is a great idea, but the thing falls down when some Hollywood scriptwriter scratched his head and asked “How the hell do we explain why they’re in there?”. Typically, the explanation the film comes up with is not exceptional and it might have been better not to have tried it at all. A much better example of people stuck in a weird prison situation is a Canadian film of a decade ago called The Cube – a truly frightening offering because it cleverly made no attempt at explanations. You just had to work it out for yourself.



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