The latest in a string of young-adult novels to be translated to the big screen, “The Maze Runner” feels the most like “The Hunger Games” than any YA dystopian tale this side of “Divergent.” The film, which sat atop the box office in its first week, is based on the 2007 book written by James Dashner. It tells the story of a teenage boy named Thomas who wakes up to find himself with no memories in an isolated community of a few dozen other boys.
No one knows why they’re there, but over the years, those who were there before Thomas had built a society that builds shelter, makes food and, most importantly, traverse the enormous maze that surrounds the Glade. Things start changing upon Thomas’ arrival, though, from the killing of the dangerous Grievers that lurk in the maze to the unexpected arrival of a girl — who just so happens to have a telepathic link with Thomas — to the walls of the maze staying open at night. After the Grievers invade the Glade, Thomas leads the escape into the maze and through the hole that he’d recently discovered. The group comes across the scientific leaders behind the maze, learn about the testing that put them them and then are busted out by another group of adults who whisk them away to await their fate in the sequel.
The movie takes its fair share of liberties with the plot and some of the characters. For one, in the film, none of the boys had ever seen a Griever and lived to tell about it. In the book, they know all about the Grievers, what their capabilities are and what their toxins do — they even have an antidote provided to them by the Creators of the maze, though it still hurts like mad and brings back some of the victim’s memories. The raid and defense of the Glade is totally different, as well, as in the book, the Grievers pick off only one Glader per night as part of the Creators’ test.
The entire climax is notably altered for the movie, spurred largely by the movie taking out Thomas and Teresa’s psychic link. Without this genetic enhancement, a lot of what goes on near the ending feels very different, but it works a lot better for the medium to do without it (just ask “The Host” how internal dialogue works in film). However, this change also inadvertently removes the importance of Teresa’s character, which the film version doesn’t really work to replace. As such, she feels like a largely useless character in the movie.
All in all, neither story really measures up to the other Y.A. dystopian novels and movies that have risen in popularity recently. I’d prefer reading the book again over seeing the movie again, but neither one made a whole lot of sense and raises too many weird little questions to think there will be another film in the series.