Page to Screen: The Maze Runner

mazerunnerIt’s hard to know where to start this review of The Maze Runner movie, so let’s start with some numbers – 1, 32.5, 63, 80, 49 and 9.15.  It was the #1 movie this past weekend, raking in $32.5 million dollars. According to Rotten Tomatoes, 63% of critics favored the film and 80% of audiences liked it. Variety reported that 49% of the viewers this weekend were male, and that after seeing the numbers above, Fox wasted no time announcing the release of the sequel to The Maze Runner to be released in September 2015.

The Variety article is interesting for many reasons, but mainly because it talks about the bankability of film adaptations of young adult books. At first it wrongfully seems to argue that The Maze Runner did so well because it was the first YA lit film with a male protagonist– apparently they’ve forgotten about the Percy Jackson films. I would also argue that this is more of an ensemble film, but that would be digressing. The more astute observation from the article is that in order for a book to film movie to do well, no matter the fandom’s size, the movie actually needs to be good for both fans and newcomers alike.

So how did first time director Wes Ball do with James Dashner’s The Maze Runner?

Full disclosure here, readers, I was only about a quarter of the way through the actual book before seeing the movie. It was one of those books that after finally picking it up, I really wanted to like but was having a really difficult time getting into it. Everyone kept telling me don’t worry, it’s a slow start, but once it gets going you won’t be able to put the book down. This was true, but I needed the catalyst of watching the movie and actually liking it before being able to finish the book.

It ended up that I really liked both the film and the book. In fact what everyone kept telling me was true – I eventually couldn’t put down the book until I was done. Those last hundred pages are just so twisty! With that said, if you are an ardent Dashner fan or a book purist, I’m not entirely sure you will like The Maze Runner movie. It is an understatement to say that they changed a lot in the adaptation from book to film. Having only read the first book, I’m not entirely sure what ramifications these changes could have on the larger narrative of the trilogy. If you have thoughts on this subject, please let us know in the comments.

Given the amount of changes from page to screen, it would be impossible to recount in this one blog post. It would also be entirely unfair to a film that solidly stands on its own with good pacing, action and a solid ensemble cast of actors. I would argue the only true misstep of the film is the ending, which had one of my viewing companions equating it to be “Losted” a la the show’s series finale. The movie does so well building a story, only to have it seriously unravel in the last twenty minutes, which in part could have been due to the amount of trimming they did from the source material. Dashner does a much better job setting us up for that ending, whereas the movie makes it feel like a confusing slap in the face.

The film did a great job of showcasing the family-like interdependence of the Glade right from the get-go, something that the book takes a much longer time building towards since it’s solely from Thomas’ perspective. These opening scenes in the book were difficult for me to connect with the characters, and this was something the film did really well. The action sequences were amazing and if there was an MVP award for the film it would have to go to the Maze. Those running sequences were everything that you could hope for after reading the book and more.

Overall, if you are looking for a faithful retelling of Dashner’s The Maze Runner, then this might not be the movie for you. However, I would still implore you to give it a go. It was a fun action adventure film with a great cast. It might not be the best adaptation I’ve seen, but it’s certainly not the worst. It’s a good movie in it’s own right outside of the book to page transformation. What do you think, readers? Did you like the film, or were you too upset by all of the changes?

For more about James Dashner, check out Julie Bartel’s interview with him for The Hub’s One Thing Leads to Another series.

-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill

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Katie Shanahan Yu

Katie Shanahan Yu is a Media Specialist for a middle school in Rockville, MD. Find her on Twitter: @kakakates