Film: "The Maze Runner"; Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Dexter Darden, Chris Sheffield; Director: Wes Ball; Rating: ***
Technically, "The Maze Runner" is a hero's journey, where the hero is courageous, doesn't follow rules and is willing to try till he succeeds. It has similarities with films like "Nineteen Eighty Four", "Logan's Run", "Lord of The Flies", "Battle Royale", and "Hunger Games".
It also bears a striking resemblance to the recently released films, "Divergent" and "The Giver".
In fact, this sense of familiarity makes for the comfortable viewing. The film is constantly engaging and never blatantly taxing.
The story, oscillating between fatalism and optimism, is based on James Dashner's 2009 popular young adult fantasy novel of the same name.
The narration begins with Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) being hauled up in a rattling freight elevator in an unknown destination, which he later learns is the Glade, a vast open area covered by meadows and woods surrounded by massive concrete walls that form the Maze.
This strange place is populated by a multi-ethnic group of male teenagers who have been living there for the last three years. Like Thomas, none of the others there remember anything about their lives prior to getting to the Glade or who put them there.
The inhabitants address Thomas as "Greenie", a term for the lowest rung in the community, usually reserved for those who indulge in gardening. The others are "Builders" who provide the camp with the necessary tools and "Runners" the most respected of the lot.
They also brief him about the three rules of inhabitation - do your part uninterruptedly and without questioning, never harm other "Gladers" and, lastly, never go beyond those walls, for into the Maze reside the Grievers.
They are the biomechanical predators who look like terrifying tarantula creatures that patrol the Maze during the night.
Alby (Aml Ameen), the team leader, who was the first to arrive at the Glade, was the one who set the rules. He along with Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) led the team.
Gally (Will Poulter) is the law enforcer, who provides any physical persuasion if required, to keep everyone in line in order to perform their assigned tasks and there is Minho (Ki Hong Lee), the lead runner.
After more than three years of exploration, they're still searching for the secret escape route to exit from the Maze.
Because of his curious instinct and unique perspective, Thomas is soon promoted to a Runner. And soon after helping Alby and Minho survive a night in the Maze, an unprecedented feat, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) the only girl is sent to the Glade. Her arrival upsets the fragile social order.
Nevertheless, the result is obvious.
The appealing star cast is spontaneous and charming yet, offers nothing extraordinary. The lone girl Kaya Scoldelrio seems like a forced inclusion. She offers nothing concrete in terms of the story progression and Patricia Clarkson as the head of the enigmatic research team of the dystopian society is hardly there to leave an impact.
Director Wes Ball in his maiden directorial venture has managed to hook the audience with his winning, but not so convincing story, purely on the basis of the performance of the cast and their interpersonal chemistry.
Technically the film, with minimalist, computer-generated images and trappings of science-fiction, is a treat to watch. The script is fast-paced and the climax challenging. It is the denouement that struggles to leave an impact.
Nevertheless the last scene promises a sequel soon, which may be more fulfilling.