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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Maze Runner Movie--Win or Fail?

The Maze Runner book by James Dashner was one of my top three reads last year, and I knew about the movie and went to a couple writing classes from Dashner at a conference (he's a super nice guy) way before that, so needless to say, I've been waiting for this movie for a while. At the writing conference, Dashner was fun to hear from because it was just after the movie started production, and he was way excited about it. He was very positive and a bit passionate, and I loved hearing that come out of him.

But when I heard that 20th Century Fox was adapting The Maze Runner movie, I said, "Heck no!" I will never forget what they did to this adaptation:

I still talk about how much I hate the Eragon movie often. Other times I forget it even exists because it was so awful.

But The Maze Runner movie? I loved it.

Does it deviate from the book? Yes. But it was more similar than different. It hit the same points and they had the overall concept of it down. And the changes they did make didn't irk me hardly at all. But one of the best things about the movie, is that it evoked almost all the same emotions in me that the book did. I was immediately sucked in and felt it all--fear, dread, morbid curiosity, disgust.

Back in my book review, I said that the setting and the plot are what made the book. That's where the story's main focus is. Well, the filmmakers exceeded my expectations with the setting. In fact, some of the stuff they added to the setting made me wish that it was in the book also. I liked how thick the walls of the maze were in the movie. Several times they showed Thomas trying to get through them before they closed and the camera angle was so good that I felt like I was suffocated in each of those shots. They had Thomas climb up to a part of the maze and jump across ledges, and that was cool. And I loved a part of the maze they added called "the blades." The special effects at the blades, heck, through the whole movie, were awesome.

In the maze, there are these monsters called Grievers. Very creepy (and disgusting) in the book. In the wrong hands, they could have easily been awful and laughable in the movie, but the concept artists and designers pulled it off! They were even creepier in the movie. I felt like I was in a horror film. And they were so disgusting, I wanted to gag. All I can say is that the Grievers were amazing in all of their scenes. They had a purpose in the story and they filled it exceptionally.

But the Grievers weren't the only ones who aced their scenes; the actors did too. While Dylan O'Brien, who played the protagonist Thomas, was definitely more handsome than I pictured his character, his acting was good. I believed in his Thomas, and I liked him. Alby's demeanor was just how I pictured in the book, and Chuck wasn't exact for me, but he was close. And Minho! He's my favorite character. He didn't get a lot of lines in the film, but everything we did see of him was true-to-character.

Then Gally. I can't not talk about him. He's that heckler character who is supposed to stir-up trouble for our protagonist. But his logic and perspective (especially in the movie) feels a bit warped. It's not so twisted that you think he's insane, but it's just strange enough that it's unbelievable when you first hear it. With the wrong actor, his movie character would have totally fallen flat. He wouldn't have convinced us. We would have just scratched our heads, shrugged our shoulders, and moved on. But the actor, Will Poulter convinced me that Gally believed in his cause. His logic was weird enough to make me uncomfortable, but somehow the Poulter pulled off his character.

The only person I had a problem with was Teresa, both the character and the portrayal. In the book, Teresa feels like a very important part of the plot. I didn't get that in the movie. She was just another person who happened to be the last person to come to the maze. (By the way, the filmmakers totally cut the whole telepathy thing out. In the book, Teresa and Thomas can speak to each other telepathically for some strange reason they don't understand. We don't get any of that.) I can't say that Kaya Scodelario is a bad actress, but it was rather the way Teresa was portrayed that I had a problem with. Here are some photos to illustrate.

Kaya Scodelario

Kristen Stewart as vampire Bella
Kaya as Teresa

Kristen Stewart

Kaya as Teresa

Bella on her wedding day

I'm about 99% sure someone making the film decided that it'd be a good idea to make Teresa look like Kristen Stewart's Bella (a.k.a. just Kristen Stewart), because, you know, this is another popular YA film franchise, so let's make the only girl in The Maze Runner look like the popular Kristen Stewart--it'll help appeal to our audience! Kaya's lips even looked like they had that filler stuff put in them just to give her that open-mouth Kristen look--I kid you not. Look at Kaya's lips when you see the film. They pucker too much, unnaturally. 

I could hardly stand Kristen as Bella, I don't need to relive that experience for three other movies. The movie Teresa also looked p.o.'d the whole time. Admittedly, she was still more entertaining than Kristen Stewart.

If you are a die-hard movie-should-copy-the-book Maze Runner fan, you'll probably be disappointed with some of the plot changes. Like I mentioned, we don't get the telepathy. We don't get the significance behind the characters' names. We don't get the gray skies from when the maze all stops working. We don't get the Wicked beetle blades. We don't get a code we have to solve. And more.

But the basis of the plot and the main plot points are still the same. We're following a story about teens who have no memory stuck in a maze with monsters, and what we do get is still an awesome movie.


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