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Still shot from the movie: The Maze Runner.

The Maze Runner

Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) has no memory of who he was before he arrived in a compound surrounded by a maze. But the future for himself, and the other boys also trapped there, seems to depend on them figuring out how to navigate the labyrinth.

Overall Grade: B-
Violence: D+
Sexual Content: A
Language: C
Drugs/Alcohol: C
Release Date: 19 Sep 2014
Run Time: 113
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

There seems to be a glut of teen movies right now where kids become pawns in the hands of adults—often for the elder persons’ own nefarious purposes. Over the past year (2014), we’ve seen the story played out over and over again in Divergent, Ender’s Game and The Giver. Now The Maze Runner follows suit.

In this story, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up to find himself hurtling upward in an elevator shaft. When the metal cage he is in lurches to a stop, he is pulled out by a group of boys and thrown into a large grassy compound. The Glade, as it is called, is surrounded by a massive maze made of huge cement walls. For the past three years a newcomer has arrived in the elevator every 30 days, along with fresh supplies. Over that time the youth have learned to farm, build homes, and make an alcoholic substitute. They have also developed a kind of hierarchal society. While these efforts have worked better for them than the Lord of the Flies characters, their peace is still tenuous.

Inside the Glade, each person has a job to do. The most dangerous one is that assigned to the runners, who enter the maze every morning as soon as the huge gate opens to reveal the ever-changing labyrinth. Their objective is to find a way to escape. Yet they have to be home before dark when the gate closes and the grievers (large mechanical looking spiders) come out. Anyone left in the maze overnight doesn’t survive.

For the most part, Alby, Minho, Newt, Chuck, Gally (Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Blake Cooper and Will Poulter) and the others have settled into a routine of just trying to survive inside the enclosure. But Thomas wants out. Then one evening, while trying to help Minho rescue Alby, the three teens get caught in the maze after the gates close. That night, during a terrifying encounter with one of the grievers, they stumble upon a valuable clue about who may have put them inside the formidable structure.

This origin movie spends a lot of time introducing characters—including the girl (Kaya Scodelario) who shows up in the elevator one day. Flashbacks also give viewers some hints of a back-story. So it is no surprise that by the time the movie ends there are still lots of unanswered questions… along with an obvious plug for a sequel.

Violence of course is the biggest concern in this movie, with some bloody and even graphic depictions of fatal injuries, deadly creature attacks, murdered victims and an apparent suicide. Maintaining order inside the Glade also involves some fistfights and imprisonment. As well, the script includes a couple dozen profanities and some crude name-calling. Still when it comes to an action drama for older teens, The Maze Runner has a lot to offer. Driven by curiosity, Thomas refuses to accept his fate. Rather he encourages the rest of the group to join him in his quest. And like so many of the other teen characters we’ve seen in theaters lately, these ingenious kids refuse to stay put once they realize they’ve been played.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Violence: Characters are threatened and imprisoned for disobedience. Boys fight for entertainment. A character is attacked and choked by a deranged boy. A character stumbles upon a pile of bones in the forest. A sick boy is forced into the maze to be eaten by the grievers. Bloody injuries are shown. Sticks, stones and other handmade weapons are used on occasion. Huge creatures attack characters and carry them off. Dead bodies are seen lying in pools of blood. A woman holds a gun to her head and fires. A character is shot in the chest. Another boy is impaled with a spear-like weapon.

Sexual Content: None noted.

Language: The script contains about two-dozen profanities and some name-calling.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Boys drink a homemade alcohol-like brew. Characters are injected with a serum.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Why is it so important for the boys to remember their names, even if they can’t recall anything else about their past? How does our name contribute to our identity?

The boys in the Glade have three simple rules: do your part, never harm another boy, don’t go beyond the wall. Do you agree with these rules? How do these rules contribute to the success of their society? Although Thomas is punished for breaking the last rule, how does his decision to go exploring ultimately help the group?

Children are used as test subjects in this story. Do you think this is ethical? How do you feel about using animals for testing? Would you agree with human testing for medical procedures or medications?

This movie is based on a series of novels, starting with The Maze Runner by James Dashnerby.

Video alternatives

A group of boys are detained in a camp for ulterior reasons in Holes. Another dystopian society amuses themselves by putting youth in a life and death situation in The Hunger Games. The movie Ender’s Game depicts adults exploiting the talents of teens to beat a formidable enemy.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: The Maze Runner
Release Date: 16 December 2014
The Maze Runner releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy) with the following extras:
- 24-Page Prequel Comic Book
- Deleted Scenes with Commentary from Wes Ball
- Navigating The Maze: The Making of The Maze Runner (A Five Part Documentary that includes: The Maze is Born, Creating the World, Finding the Gang, The Movie Inside the Maze, and The Digital Details)
- The “Chuck Diaries”
- Gag Reel
- Visual Effects Reels
- Ruin: Wes Ball Short Film in 2D and 3D with Commentary from Wes Ball
- Audio Commentary by Wes Ball and T.S. Nowlin
- Galleries

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About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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