Every studio is looking for the next big young adult series. Franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, and most recently, The Hunger Games, practically print their own money. One thing these films have in common is that they’re all based on hugely popular books. Young adult fiction is the hottest thing going in publishing right now—if there’s a way publishers can market your book as YA, they’re going to—and the movie rights for books that aren’t even out are routinely snatched up by Hollywood studios. Now we have a look at the first photos of The Maze Runner, which 20th Century Fox hopes will be the next YA property to blow up huge.
The problem is that, even with the built in audience of voracious young readers, success isn’t a sure thing. Movies like Beautiful Creatures and I Am Number Four tanked, and even though we’re getting a sequel next month, the first Percy Jackson movie underperformed at the box office. Such setbacks aren’t going to dissuade anyone from this practice—studio execs are a hard-headed lot—so you can count on seeing a steady diet of YA adaptions on movie screens.
Post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories are huge right now, and there are two notable franchises looking to follow in the footsteps of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. In addition to The Maze Runner, based on the book by James Dashner, we’ll also get the film version of Veronica Roth’s similarly themed Divergent books.
The Maze Runner follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), who wakes up in a place called The Glade, unable to remember anything but his name. His new home is populated by young men approximately his age, none of whom can recall anything before their arrival either, though many of them have been there for years. The Glade is hemmed in by massive stone walls. Each morning these barriers open up, revealing a complex, ever changing maze. Shortly after Thomas shows up, a young woman (Kaya Scodelario) arrives, the first female in Glade history, and kicks off a chain reaction of events that may signal the end for the Gladers.
While the story is interesting, The Maze Runner is just sort of okay. The novel could translate into an exciting action movie, but the characters are pretty middle of the road. I’ll give it a fair shot, but this isn’t something I’m super enthused about.
Of all the elements of the book, the visual side of things could be really cool. In the book you get the impression that the walls resemble a monolithic, natural formations, though the glimpse you get in these photos makes the look more industrial in nature (I like the look better in this concept art). And then there are the monsters, called Grievers, that inhabit the maze after dark. Depending on how director Wes Ball and the special effects team interpret them, they could either turn out creepy and terrifying, or comical and silly. The way these two pieces turn out will go a long way towards defining the tone and mood of the entire movie.
In addition to getting a glimpse at the world of The Maze Runner for the first time, there are also a handful of new characters photos that introduce you to some of the key players. There’s Thomas, of course. He is the main character, after all. But you also get your first glimpse at Thomas’ main enemy, Gally (Will Poulter); Jeff (Jacob Latmore), a med-jack, which is the Glade version of an EMT; and Chuck (Blake Cooper), who is Thomas’ only real friend, and pseudo little brother. These images are to pump up a live twitter chat scheduled to go down on July 8.
The Maze Runner opens next Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2014.