The Maze Runner (2014)
114 min., rated PG-13.
Perking up from the start, "The Maze Runner" drops us in head-first with an intense jolt of urgency, as we find then-nameless Thomas waking up to his lightning-fast ride in "the box" up to The Glade. Making his feature debut, visual effects artist Wes Ball directs without losing the much-needed toughness of the story. On and off, the film does ratchet up spikes of excitement—a breathless, visceral chase in the maze between Thomas and one of the Grievers comes to mind, as well as every time Thomas runs through a tight space, "Indiana Jones"-style, just before the moving walls could crush him—and screenwriters Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin's script gradually rises in narrative threat and strife among the Gladers. The stakes never seem high enough, though, since everything is a mystery. When the maze walls shift at night to throw off the runners, the sense of panic should be higher and more palpable. Sure, even if the runners didn't enter the maze, the Grievers are still released through the Glade, but the Glade seems like a pretty serene version of "Survivor" with a lot of downtime to be resourceful and live off the land. There certainly are higher-power insinuations, but the more we gather, the less engaging and more dull the film gets. To little avail, it seems like the film is always on the verge of becoming more thrilling, more dangerous, and more interesting.