There's nothing particularly original or insightful to set this teen-dystopia thriller apart from the crowd, but strong characters will build some anticipation for the next instalment in the franchise. Unusually for the genre, the film also has a remarkably masculine tone, centring on boyish jostling for control while leaving the women in just two small-but-pivotal roles. On the other hand, it's to thinly plotted that it's pretty forgettable.
The story opens in a scene of disorientation, as teen Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) emerges into the Glade, unable to remember anything about himself or his past. He's the monthly arrival to a community of boys anchored by Alby (Aml Ameen) and the runners who dash into the maze beyond the four tall walls that close in their isolated world. But the maze is full of dangers, and paranoid leader Gally (Will Poulter) thinks Thomas is jeopardising the status quo with his curiosity, bravery and desire to get out. As divisions appear in the community, the game itself seems to be changing as monsters called grievers become more aggressive. Thomas finds allies in Gally's second-in-command Newt (Brodie-Sangster), the lead runner Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and cheery youngster Chuck (Blake Cooper). Then a girl (Kaya Scodelario) arrives carrying a note that says, "She is the last one EVER." And now everyone knows that nothing will be the same again.
Essentially this is Lord of the Flies with the nasty bits taken out, as these boys create a relatively peaceful society until Thomas' arrival signals an apocalypse within the post-apocalypse. Through it all, Thomas has dreams revealing snippets of information about what's really going on here and who's pulling the strings (the fabulous Patricia Clarkson). Meanwhile, he has to learn the mythology of the Glade, which is carefully explained in painfully obvious dialogue ("That's what we call 'the changing'").
Continue reading: The Maze Runner Review