The Maze Runner12A
Oh Lord, not yet another adaptation of a young adult fiction book series. An understandable reaction considering Hollywood's current trend for tapping into this bottomless pit of a market. It's obvious however that the fans of these books are keen to see their favourite characters come to life off the page and onto the silver screen, and are happy to pay for the privilege.
So, along with characters running around in Lycra trying to save the day with their super powers, it's a trend that looks likely to stay. Joy.
And yet here's the thing: The Maze Runner is quite a thrilling spectacle. No, we weren't expecting it either.
It's understandable that waking up in a moving lift can leave you a little disorientated, and that's exactly what happens to Thomas (Dylan O'Brien). And then it stops. He gets out to be greeted by a group of young male teens. Apparently the same thing happened to them all, and now they find themselves in a square rural area, surrounded by hefty walls.
With no obvious way out, the boys have been looking after themselves, along with the occasional supplies sent up in the lift. You would think that just pressing down in the lift would be enough to leave, but it's not that simple; as far as they're concerned, the only way is up.
Not that they aren't trying to be proactive in their attempts to leave. Every day a gap in the wall appears, and a small group of brave individuals travel through it, looking for a way out. They are called the maze runners, because that's exactly what they do: through the gap exists a giant maze that manages to change its layout every day. As if that wasn't confusing enough, there are monsters known as Grievers that lurk inside, that don't take lightly to intruders.
Thomas isn't just intrigued about what lies behind the walls, he's obsessed, which is why he puts himself forward to be a maze runner. Unlike the majority of the boys, many of whom have been trapped there for years, Thomas isn't settling for the status quo: he wants out and if that means being a maze runner, so be it. But the maze isn't going to make it easy and has a few tricks up its moving wall sleeves to keep Thomas on his toes.
Right from the off, The Maze Runner comes out of the blocks at a fair old pace and rarely lets up. Wes Ball makes his directorial debut with this title and impresses all of the way by injecting a whole heap of energy into proceedings. The story, a mix of Lord of the Flies meets Lost, is an intriguing one, and he tells it like someone with far more experience than hr really ought to have.
He gets a lot out of his young cast too, including Brits Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario, who all manage to lift it above your average CW network (who churn out the likes of The Vampire Diaries and the similarly themed The 100 on US TV) teen drama.
Probably his greatest achievement in this is making it an absorbing sci-thriller first and a young teens in peril drama second; it's a fine line that many have overstepped (in some cases, by some margin – shame on you Divergent), but Ball strikes the balance perfectly.
So much so that, and it's surprising to say it, it may leave you actually looking forward to the next instalment, which is definitely on the cards with the sequel The Scorch Trials on its way. And with Ball down to direct that one too, no one would blame you for admitting to being a little bit excited at the prospect.
This is a superb sci-fi thriller, enjoyably darker than most in tone, that's too darn good to be wasted on just the young audience it's clearly aimed at. So gatecrash the party and enjoy the spectacle.