Thursday, November 6, 2014

Scatterbrained Maze Runner Entertains

The unexpectedly intelligent Maze Runner leaves audiences with more questions than answers.


ARTH VADER (AV): Holding surprisingly true to the book of the same name by James Dasher, the young-adult post apocalyptic tale is the opening salvo of a trilogy. My kids all read the book series so I was odd-man out at the theater but given their–often audible–reactions, it appears the film tracked fairly well with its audience. Was that your experience, Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): The Maze Runner, like most books made into films, did not make the transition without some changes Vader. I’ll let avid readers of the books (your Sithling children) decide if they were minor to major ones (Ben being a runner, the look of the Grievers, no telepathy) but in the end, the film was not something totally unrecognizable from the book. It remains to be seen if future installments align more or diverge more, from the books they will be derived from.


AV: With an entire squadron of fresh-faced up and comers, Maze Runner was rife with genuine, new pasty-faced, wide-eyed young Hollywood hopefuls. Director Wes “God I love Star Trek” Ball shared a cinematographic vision that is oddly gripping and carries the viewer through a very swiss-cheese storyline. Despite the many issues this film has–and believe me, there are many–the entertainment value is high. The story-pacing does well to move the shoddy screenplay forward. The acting is nothing to write home about, but their is magic here, and the cast feels engaged.

TP: Bring out your young up and coming actors, we have a teen movie to film! This is a great film to get some actors started as evidenced by there being no really big names in the film. Dylan O’Brien leads with help from Aml Ameen and Ki Hong Lee. All deliver good performances and the film flows well enough from the directing. My only issue was with the story, but I’ll get into that a little later.


AV: I was expecting heavy-handed visual effects in Maze Runner, and by jove, P-Man, we got ‘em! The spider-like guardians (keepers) of the maze, imagined as some odd hybrid of monster and machine, was a well-handled visual effect. Watching the maze, shift and transform was an awesome spectacle. While not a particularly stunning visual effects film, the notable effects that were shown were quite well-handled.

TP: There were no breakthroughs in technology or new ground broken visually, but there were also no glaring mistakes (as far as I could see). The effects were good, heck, even great in those scenes where the landscape was the special effect. The film drew me in with a sense of being there, which helped given my grievances with the actual plot. 


AV: This movie doesn’t require a lot of brain power to absorb. What’s nice is the feeling that there is a bigger plan in place. Why are these kids here? Why are there no girls (until the very first shows up near the end)? Why go through all the trouble to look these young boys and men away and have them fight for their lives and slog it out for their salvation against the elements, weird wild animals, and each other? Leaving me with more questions than answers is fine. My issues with this film are the inconsistent acting quality, even from individual actors and the goofy premise to the story. However, the film’s end offers a nice twist (again, didn’t read the book so the end was a surprise). The end of film does leave audiences in a kind of WTH moment and also leaves an interesting door open for a sequel (or sequels). P-Tiff?

TP: I was very excited about this film seeing the previews, not so much after seeing the film O’Dark One. I just don’t get it. A solar event has killed half the population of the planet and ravaged the surface. A virus had popped up soon after killing even more. To combat the virus, teenagers are put into a plush, green, thriving arena to be tested to engineer a cure for the virus? What? Um…why not just take them to a lab and test them biochemically? Obviously they have advanced technology to engineer the Grievers, a mesh of biology and technology. How is dumping these children into a maze, exposing them to dangerous conditions, even killing some of them, advancing the cure for the virus? Visually, the film was fun…intellectually, it made no sense. 


AV: Its always odd to me when films come out with the intention of being the first of a trilogy, rather than being a solid film all its own. Maze Runner has been out for nigh on 5 weeks as of this blog post and has raked in just shy of $95 million. With a (reported) production budget of $34 million, that makes this a marginally profitable film with promise for a sequel. The real question to ask is, ‘would you see another installment of this film?” Yes, Ponty, yes I would.

TP: There are two more books in the trilogy, so I expect that as long as box office bottom line is viable (and its “just” according to the numbers), we will see those books on the silver screen. Hopefully the story improves.


ARTH VADER Rates The Maze Runner: If you find yourself in need of overly trite teenage melodrama filled with man-boy actors trying to make sense of a non-sensical world–and let’s face it, who isn’t–then Maze Runner is for you. I can’t lie, I did enjoy this movie. Even with a cumbersome plot and lofty screenplay you can still have a good time. Engaging, if not brainless, Maze Runner earns six (6) busted, if not puzzling blocks.

THE PONTIFICATOR Rates The Maze Runner: The film was fun to watch visually, but the constant questions nagging me and the less-than-fulfilling answers that followed tainted this film for me. The story just doesn’t make sense and that says a lot for someone like me that often suspends logic and belief for the sake of entertainment. Leaving the maze was just the beginning, and this film only found six (6) busted blocks on the way to the exit.

Maze Runner:  6 / 10 Busted Blocks

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