Welcome to the Glade

Welcome to the Glade

Wes Ball

3.5/4 stars

When some movies try to make a scene believable enough that the viewer feels like they’ve stepped into a new world, they fail miserably. “The Maze Runner “ isn’t one of those movies. The opening scene – a mostly-dark sequence of protagonist Thomas’ (Dylan O’Brien) ascent into his new home, the maze-surrounded Glade – features a bronzer-brushed, sweat-soaked Thomas gasping for air. When the screen explodes into brilliant light, illuminating many supporting characters – Ki Hong Lee, known for ABC’s short-lived “The Nine Lives of Chloe King”; Thomas Brodie-Sangster, known for “Love Actually,” and “Game of Thrones”; and Will Poulter, star of last year’s “We’re the Millers.” While these actors, like “Skins’” Kaya Scodelario, add depth and support to the movie, O’Brien (“Teen Wolf”) really carries the movie.

While O’Brien, 23, consistently out-acts even those many years his senior on MTV’s “Teen Wolf”,  his emotional range was even more apparent in “The Maze Runner”. As someone who hasn’t read the books, I came with low expectations, not expecting any sort of emotional attachment to the main character. However, O’Brien’s Thomas is so unapologetically selfless that you can’t help but root for him. Likewise, even Poulter’s Gally, immediately opposed to any idea Thomas has to contribute to the Gladers (the group who lives in the Glade), shows his reasoning for doing effectively enough to garner sympathy from the viewers, even punching O’Brien’s face.

In addition to the acting, the filming of the movie usually added to the story. The gritty feeling of the bouncing camera as the characters ran through the maze and the dark filter convey the panic the Gladers felt. The immediate transition from darkness to blinding white light that occurs several times in the film is jarring, but adds to the experience. Likewise, the soundtrack can be dramatic for some of the less climactic parts of the arc, yet at the action-filled peaks, the pounding bassline will have you at the edge of your seat. The visual effects, especially the CGI used to create the Greavers, cyborg-scorpion monsters, are stunning.

Overall, though my initial concern was that “The Maze Runner” would be another movie in a long line of young-adult-novels-turned-blockbuster-wannabes, it impressed me with its rich storytelling and passionate acting. Characters saying that they “belong to the maze” is extremely appropriate as new fans of the franchise begin to emerge: soon, we’ll all belong to the maze.

– Maria Katsulos