Lat­est dystopian-fu­ture film nowhere near a-maze-ing

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

THIS month’s “young adults save the fu­ture” film fran­chise is The Maze Run­ner, an in­dif­fer­ent quest tale about boys trapped in a gi­gan­tic maze with no idea how they got there. A teen boy (Dy­lan O’Brien) wakes up, scream­ing, on a freight el­e­va­tor soar­ing up to a field, where it promptly drops its “gree­nie” or new­bie into a clatch of rus­tic boys his own age. He doesn’t know his name or any­thing else, other than the English lan­guage. But the other lads set him straight. This is “Glades,” the glade. Some boys are “Builders,” some are “Run­ners.” They run through the vast walled maze that sur­rounds their en­camp­ment each day, com­ing home just be­fore the huge walls creak shut on gi­gan­tic gears each night. They’re care­ful to avoid the Griev­ers, su­per­sized spi­ders with metal­lic legs, guardians of The Maze. Be­cause Griev­ers sting, and their sting causes “The Change” — a poi­sonous delir­ium. There are rules that have kept them alive un­der the coun­sel of Alby (Aml Ameen) and the bully Gally (Will Poul­ter). But the new guy, who re­cov­ers his name — Thomas — is im­pa­tient. He wants to find a way out. Now. He up­sets the bal­ance, breaks the rules and then “The Girl” (Kaya Scode­lario) ar­rives and tosses things wrin­kles to make you think maybe THIS time things will be dif­fer­ent. The ac­tors aren’t bad, with Nanny McPhee vet Thomas Brodie-Sangster stand­ing out by be­ing as skinny as a teen stuck in the woods, forced to fend for him­self, and O’Brien, Ameen, Poul­ter and Ki Hong Lee (as a “Run­ner”) hav­ing de­cent screen pres­ence. Art di­rec­tor-turned-di­rec­tor Wes Ball gives us a con­vinc­ing maze of tow­er­ing, weath­ered and moss-cov­ered con­crete, and a wood­land world where the boys have mas­tered shel­ter build­ing and fire start­ing. The film has fine mo­ments of claus­tro­pho­bia as the mov­ing walls threaten to squish as­sorted boys, the spi­ders are hu­mon­gous and the lads dis­agree among them­selves, vi­o­lently, about what to do. Very Lord of the Flies. But all th­ese lit­er­ary un­der­pin­nings do not dis­guise a blasé, emo­tion­starved script, di­a­logue that in­eptly re­peats what the images have al­ready shown us is hap­pen­ing, stagey scenes where char­ac­ters poke each other in the chest to keep them from storm­ing out of the cam­era frame. And the res­o­lu­tion to this puz­zle is so botched it’s in­sult­ing, as if they’re dar­ing us to laugh at the no­tion that this is merely “the be­gin­ning.”

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