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The Maze Runner

You'd think that a group of teen boys who've spent three years holed up together on a secluded acre of farmland would figure out something to talk about. But The Maze Runner has little interest in anything its victims might be feeling or thinking at any given time… unless it has to do with that maze.

It might sound silly to bemoan a film called The Maze Runner for paying too much attention to its titular labyrinth. The enigmatic maze that imprisons the abandoned boys, its intricacies, and the one gigantic action set piece that it allows provide the lion's share of excitement in this primarily drab adaptation of James Dashner's young adult novel. The problem is that, cool as the maze may be, we don't care a lick about the folks running it.

The film opens as our hero, a perpetually shocked Dylan O'Brien, finds himself thrust into a mysterious reservation located right outside the doors to a treacherous mechanical obstacle course that none of the unorthodox pokey's upperclassmen have been able to successfully navigate in three years. But as we are told from the start, O'Brien's character Thomas is... different.

We have to be told outright that he's different, because there are no observable reasons to suggest as such. Nothing from the script nor from O'Brien's performance to suggest that this might be our Boy Who Lived, our Girl on Fire, our Shailene Woodley. Likewise, O'Brien's supporting team - group leader Aml Ameen, wide-smiling tyke Blake Cooper, contextually irrelevant resident girl Kaya Scodelario, and a dozen other half-present forgettables - is as flavorless as director Wes Ball's visual polish, the one passable exception being Will Poulter as a pseudo-antagonist/metaphoric symbol of American conservatism.

A savory enough premise allows us just enough interest in The Maze Runner to enjoy the occasional trip through the cogs and gears of the diabolical deathtrap. But without even fleeting access to any one of the boys' internal makeup, least of all Thomas, we never really care if anyone makes it out alive.