Oh Dystopia how we love thee. Young Adult books you provide us so many to choose from and continue to be a font of these stories for as far as the eyes can read. Now, when I was a little girl we had our own YA novels. I don’t remember these dystopic futures nearly as much then. Maybe I should have read more YA and less King or Barker? I do remember Z for Zachariah, which was a particular favorite of mine. I suppose my generation of 80s kids didn’t need dystopia since we were afraid of being nuked by the ‘Reds’. We actually thought Red Dawn was a possibility as kids. So where does our need for Dystopia vs. Utopia come from? Are we so jaded as a people in the west that we believe the only possible outcome is a total collapse of everything we know? That our generation has pooched things so badly that it will take rebels of a future generation to fix our screw ups and make the world (or what’s left of it a better place?).
I don’t know. I think this is a rant/discussion to come that I hope I can get some folks to weigh in on.
In the meanwhile, we have yet another entry into the YA dystopian future genre. As screenwriters and studios must option any book coming out this one was no exception showing the creative well in Hollywood is running dry whilst the writers continue to do what they do best in the book industry. The James Dashner novel was released in 2009 the book had some critical acclaim and seems to be loved by its fan base. Per the usual, I have not read it. This will be a review based on movie alone. It is worth mentioning the book series is just that a series; specifically a trilogy.
The movie starts down the wrong track immediately as it has the three writers rule in full effect. For those not familiar, the 3+ Writers Rule is something I have noticed where when you begin to add more than two writers to any film the quality of the film degrades. It doesn’t always hold true, but does more often than I should be comfortable with and enough that I noticed it as I wrote these reviews. The writers in question are T.S. Nowlin who has nothing before this and is credited with revisions to the Fantastic Four (2015) film. Grant Pierce Myers, another first timer to screenwriting and Noah Oppenheim the producer of The Today show (its a news show folks), who also has no writing credits of his own. This is one of those times where I have to think the studio isn’t even trying. Throwing not one, two , but three inexperienced screenwriters at a YA novel? You do not get another Hunger Games doing that. The two writers there, excluding Collins herself, had a decade in the industry first.
This mish mash of writing styles and just writing made its way to the screen. This, in addition to a first time director Wes Ball explains why the movie is a general hot mess. It falls into the same trap as so many other YA attempts before it where it doesn’t know its own tone, intent, or characters. You want me to feel they are at risk? Make me care about them. You want me to feel anything? Care. Seriously, I wanted to scream at the screen a few times “FINISH A SENTENCE” or “JUST EXPLAIN WHAT YOU SAID.” These kind of tropes repeat so much in the film it began to get annoying. I don’t need you to hand answers to *me* on a silver platter. I am a bright girl, I can figure them out. The lack of explanations given in this movie are just lazy. Things exist, but leave me questioning why no one else is questioning or explaining to our protagonist what is going on. It’s like being in the maze does more than wipe your memory but drops your ability to interact on any meaningful level.
They make a huge point of our main character Thomas being curious. Yet, he never seems to ask the questions he should be asking or if he does no one answers. I want to throttle people. Oh sure he has no issue defying rules (like every other YA protagonist), but he does so in such a way he is blindly charging without understanding. I appreciate his curiosity and risk taking. I’d like to think I’d do the same, but I really needed him to tie someone down to get answers before jumping in head first – when answers WERE available to some of the questions.
From an acting standpoint Dylan O’Brien (Stiles from MTVs Teen Wolf…one of the only reasons to watch that show) carries the movie. He does it well. No matter how annoyed I was with the other characters, the writing, or even parts of the story, he was enjoyable to watch. I liked him. I wish I could say the same about the others. The rest played out like Lord of the Flies in a concrete jungle rather than island. Heck, there’s even a pig head in one scene.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster seems to be playing a reincarnation of his Game of Thrones character Jojen Reed. He was sweet, but otherwise really seemed to be playing Jojen again. Will Poulter as Gally plays his stereotype to a T. I swear to all I pray to that at one point he was actually the same kid who played Buzz McAllister in Home Alone. Don’t believe me – check this: Gally vs Buzz. There must be something about that look.
From an FX standpoint, there’s just enough practical to make me miss some of the CG work. The creature designs are a nice new hybrid I don’t recall seeing anything like. The Maze itself is kind of interesting in its layers and levels and was overall enjoyable. Not bad here. The camera work is steady cam with no shaky cam that I recall and good colours as well.
If you are a fan of the book, you will likely see this movie anyway. Enjoy.
If you are not a fan of the book, I give this movie a solid Meh.
I really didn’t care at the end. It thankfully keeps out any romantic elements, which garners some praise, but otherwise doesn’t really drive me to care who lives or dies. That is sort of a fail and ultimately along with a moment to moment cut style renders the movie only ‘Watchable’ but not “Why are you still reading this and not with your butt in a seat.”
Matinee if you must. Redbox/Netflix if you were curious.
As always, comments welcome. I do encourage people to share their own opinion of the film or notes from their book experience on films. My reviews will be spoiler free, but I make no such promises about comments.