SYNOPSIS: “Teen Wolf’s” Dylan O’Brien plays Thomas, a boy who’s deposited in a mysterious community of boys after his memory is erased. He soon learns they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

Reel Rating: 5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Released in Theaters: Sept. 18, 2014
Genre: Teen, Sci-Fi, Action Adventure, Based on a Book
Runtime: 113 minutes
Directed by: Wes Ball
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario
Official Site: The Maze Runner

REVIEW: There’s already a sequel in the works for “The Maze Runner,” and I’m not surprised. The movie, which scored weekend box office numbers in the $33 million range, is based on the first book in a young-adult post-apocalyptic sci-fi trilogy by James Dashner. The book spawned two sequels: “The Scorch Trials” (already in pre-production in New Mexico) and “The Death Cure.”

The movie opens with a metal elevator bringing a frightened teenager — whom we later learn is named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, who plays Stiles on MTV’s “Teen Wolf”) — up into an unknown area. At the top, he finds himself in “The Glade,” a survivalist-type commune where a group of boys live, surrounded by a mysterious Maze that changes every day. The Maze is also home to the very scary “Grievers,” mechanized spider-like creatures who can sting and kill.

Each month, the elevator brings up supplies and a new resident who, like the others, can’t remember anything but their name. The boys are divided into groups with specific jobs — farmers, healers, builders, and runners, the bravest among them who run into the Maze each day in order to map it.

Soon, another amnesiac arrives, only this one is a girl named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) with a note attached to her: “She’s the last one ever.” Their chances of survival are slim to none without new supplies, so Thomas convinces a small group to venture into the Maze and look for a way out.

I was transfixed by this movie from the beginning, because unlike other dystopian YA thrillers like “Divergent,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Giver,” we have no idea what’s going on here. We’re just as in the dark as the Glade residents, and you don’t want to look away, lest you miss something important.

Even though it’s clear from the beginning that this group of youngsters are pawns to some evil, unfeeling adults, the suspense is heightened because we have no idea how it’s going to end (well, unless you’ve read the book, which I hadn’t).

I don’t watch “Teen Wolf” (it’s on my list), but my 17-year-old daughter raves about O’Brien’s character, noting that he ranges from comical to villainous. I think “The Maze Runner” might be his big screen break-out role. He’s ruggedly handsome and a strong actor.

He also connects well with the supporting characters, including head runner Minho (Ki Hong Lee), leader Alby (Aml Ameen), second-in-command Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), troublemaker Will Poulter (who stole the show in “We’re the Millers” and has SUCH an interesting face), and the youngest resident of The Glade, adorable Chuck (Blake Cooper).

Overall, “The Maze Runner” is equal parts “Lord of the Flies” and “The Hunger Games.” The action scenes are adrenaline-filled, suspenseful and sometimes violent. The special effects are amazing; I’m sure much of the film was done via green screen, but you’d never know it. I can’t wait for “The Scorch Trials.”


Sex/Nudity: When a girl arrives in the box, the boys are somewhat in awe of her.

Violence/Gore: Teens are thrown into a commune situation and forced to survive. Characters, some of them major, die during battles with huge mechanical spider-like creatures called Grievers, whose sting causes much pain and suffering. Characters are shot, speared and shoved, and a group of adults are found dead.

Profanity: Includes “a–hole,” “s–t,” “bastards,” “son of a bitch,” “damn,” and “oh my God!”

Drugs/Alcohol: The Glade residents drink something, but it’s unclear whether it’s alcohol or something else.

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 13 and older who like dystopian thrillers like “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent” and “The Giver.”

Will Grownups Like It? “The Maze Runner” holds your interest from start to finish.

One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.

Jane Boursaw is the founder and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Her credits include hundreds of print and online publications, including The New York Times, People Magazine, Variety, Moviefone, TV Squad and more.   Reel Life With Jane.