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Image Credit: The Maze Runner

If you’ve been meaning to add more cardio into your training regime, The Maze Runner is the next science-fiction blockbuster for you to watch for heart-pumping inspiration. Entertaining audiences with adrenaline-spiked action scenes and chiselled faces, this film creates a place for itself on a crowded shelf already jam-packed with young adult dystopian sci-fi trilogies, such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. Going into the theatre, I decided to watch this movie with a clear, unbiased mind by not reading the books beforehand; as a result, I hoped to judge the movie based on its own merits, rather than on perceived shortcomings stemming from having read the book.

 The movie begins with the protagonist, a teenaged male, awakening in a cage filled with a bewildering assortment of items, such as a live pig and barrels marked with a mysterious corporate logo. It quickly becomes evident that he and the audience share the same amount of confusion as to what is happening– a refreshing change to the usual narrative at the beginning of the film in which the main character describes the terrible disasters that have scourged the Earth and humanity. After a terrifying ascent to the surface, he is freed from his metal confines by a rag-tag group of similarly-aged young males. The nameless main character is then informed that the memory loss and confusion he is experiencing has occurred to all of them. Finding himself and his newfound companions trapped within the ominous “Maze,” our intrepid hero attempts to bend the tribe’s primitive societal rules (which seem to loosely reference The Lord of the Flies) in order to discover a potential escape route. However, lethal monsters called “Grievers,” shifting maze landscapes, and human betrayal all conspire to sabotage any attempts to understand the mystery of their circumstances. Ultimately, the protagonist (who remembers his name to be Thomas) must face the truth of his identity and find the courage to lead his friends to supposed safety. 

The Maze Runner manages to skillfully use minimalist staging and a suitable amount of CGI to create action-packed suspense and to tell an intriguing story. Unfortunately, there were certain moments in which I found myself cringing at cheesy lines or weak acting on the part of certain characters– for instance, it seemed that some individuals felt the need to resort to terrible clichés when they encountered situations of extreme danger and peril. For the most part, I found the lack of any love story to be a breath of fresh air in a genre that usually is befuddled by annoying love triangles and hot (but carefully censored) kissing. Even the eventual appearance of a female in the midst of the male-dominated group did little to create any romantic tension; rather, the plot was moving so fast at that point that her sudden insertion into a testosterone-filled environment hardly seemed to matter. While I found myself to be a little disappointed by the stunted character development of several main characters, the series of action-filled events were enough to keep myself and the rest of the audience fully engaged with the film and on the edge of our seats.

For our part, watching Ki Hong Lee’s performance as Minho, a fellow maze runner, was a real treat as we silently cheered on our Asian hero to go further than many other Asians have gone. In the beginning, he is portrayed as the strong, silent type who has the bravery, skills, and savvy to venture into the mysterious and dangerous Maze. Although it is later revealed that he is just as susceptible to doubt and fear as the rest, he is one of the first to fully support Thomas in his exploits and to act as his knowledgeable companion. Rather than the usual stereotypes of the geeky, cowardly, or evil Asian, Minho appears to be a multidimensional character worth watching and rooting for.

As a result, I would highly recommend this movie as a worthwhile way to spend the evening– as long as your expectations don’t run too high, you will find yourself having a wonderful time while experiencing the shocks and thrills of this movie. While I have yet to read the entire trilogy, I am excited to see what the next two movies have in store for us in terms of plot twists and character development. In fact, I might find myself quickly reading the series in order to find out!

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