Adaptations of young adult books are huge business for movie studios, and if you can throw in some dystopian elements, maybe an oppressive government, even better. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was the highest grossing movie of 2013, Divergent brought in almost $275 million worldwide, and the next film to drop in this mold is Wes Ball’s adaptation of James Dashner’s YA sci-fi novel The Maze Runner. The film screened yesterday at San Diego Comic-Con. Early buzz from those in attendance is overwhelmingly positive, and they released a slick new poster.
The Maze Runner the book is okay. It’s not particularly well written, but the plot and set up are cool, it has a quick pace that carries you through, and overall it’s decently structured and has a unique enough hook to keep you interested. Reading it you can see how it would make fun movie, there’s a lot of action, a creepy setting, and weird ass monsters.
A young man named Thomas (Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) wakes up in an elevator, and when the doors open he finds himself in the Glade. Populated exclusively by teenage boys, no one knows why they’re here, where they came from, or who they are. High walls enclose this space on all sides. Every morning they open revealing an extensive maze that changes daily, and every day the doors shut. Each of the boys has a job, and the so-called maze runners go out searching for an escape from their prison, but return every night because once the doors close, sinister creatures called Grievers patrol the maze. A short time after Thomas arrives, the elevator shows up again, carrying a girl, Teresa (Kaya Scoledario, Moon). Not only is this the first time two people have shown up in such quick succession—they usually pop up at 30-day intervals—she’s the first female. Her arrival signals something ominous, and then things start to get crazy.
The trailer does a good job of capturing the action, the tension, and the mystery of the situation in the Glade. You encounter the Grievers, get some adolescent angst, and run through a giant maze a time or two. Overall, it looks like it could be a good time, and according to most of the people who saw the film at Comic-Con, that’s exactly what it is.
Granted, the screening was packed with hardcore Maze Runner fans, people willing to wait long hours to see the adaptation before anyone else, so the sample set it going to be skewed. But that said, reactions ranged from calling it a thrilling adventure to using made up words like “fantabulous.” According to multiple viewers, the film is identical, or at least very close to the story in Dashner’s novel.
This shows that The Maze Runner should please fans of The Maze Runner, which isn’t always as easy as it may sound. How many times have fans of a book decried a film adaptation that makes drastic changes to the source material? So they’ve already cleared one hurdle, now they need to prove that they can capture a wider audiences, one that is unfamiliar with the book. That’s also something that is much simpler than it sounds. We’ll have to wait until the film opens on September 19 to find out for sure, but it sounds like they’re off to a good start.