It’s hard for a film to be a part of the rush of young adult novel adaptations without drawing inevitable comparisons to those that came before it.
The Maze Runner ticks all the classic boxes: teenagers fighting for their lives, a vaguely sketched dystopian setting, lots of nondescript grey clothing. Fortunately, though the film’s plot may not be innovative or even unpredictable, it is at least fun.
The viewer is plunged into the world of the maze at the same time as the film’s protagonist, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), arrives in a box that brings teen boys to an isolated forest where they have built a makeshift yet peaceful society.
The boys are trapped here with no clue as to how or why, and the only way out is, of course, through the surrounding maze.
‘Runners’ spend their days mapping the maze and avoiding the sting of giant spider-like mutants.
While there are some poignant moments delivered through the relationships of the strongest characters, due to the fact that none of them remember anything of their lives before the maze, their plights are not especially individually interesting.
Midway through the film there is the arrival of the only girl to the maze, which is, like everything else, unexplained – she is essentially just another body in the team effort to escape.
This lack of backstory does, however, help reinforce the characters single, shared goal, allowing us to understand their quest instantly and without unnecessary drama.
When the characters do finally take action, the relief that comes from the end of incessant hypothesising about the maze is short lived.
Any interesting aspects of the hierarchical society the group has established dissipates as soon as we are inside the maze – instead, there is lots of CGI monster fighting and efforts to outrun the maze’s ever changing labyrinthine design.
As long as you don’t spend any time trying to unravel its nonsensical mysteries, The Maze Runner is an occasionally impressive, absorbing adaptation. Its structure is less a maze than a straightforward, exciting ride in the centre of a giant, hazy question mark.