Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Maze Runner

We saw The Maze Runner at the weekend. My idea - husband would probably not have chosen the film but, having seen it, declared it "okay" (his usual response after watching one of my favourite dystopian themed films, to which I've dragged him along).

I had no great expectations of this, yet another in the current glut of "YA" (Young Adult) novels adapted to film. Movie moguls must have found this genre to be a good way of nurturing a new generation audience , possibly spurred on by the success of TV's Twilight series (no relation).

I got to wondering what my generation had, comparable in novel or film form, during our "young adulthood". Was it Little Women, Treasure Island, Gulliver's Travels, Moonfleet and so on? I don't recall going to the movies to see film version of those though. I'd watch anything at all, whether I understood fully what was going on or not. I'd go to the cinema with anyone who'd take me. The first movie I remember seeing, with my parents, maybe at age 6 or 7, was Cover Girl, with Rita Hayworth. Later, when parents were busy with their business, Grandad Scott would take me to the movies once a week, sometimes twice. We'd see all kinds of black and white films, most of which I didn't understand but found always fascinating. That was during childhood, rather than young adulthood though. Once into teen years I saw every musical film available, loved them all! They were my young adult fare.

But I digress.

The Maze Runner, is adapted from James Dashner's book, the first of a trilogy which has since spawned a prequel. I'd read that this film reminded some reviewers of Lord of the Flies. I understand why. The story features a group of teenage males, who find themselves alone in a very strange environment. There are also whispers from Logan's Run and any number of recent YA offerings. I was even reminded too, at times, of The Great Escape.

The young guys are trapped within an area known as "The Glade", surrounded by high walls outside of which lies a perilous concrete maze. After sundown the maze is patrolled by nasty murderous entities called "Grievers". The walls into the maze slide open during daylight hours, enabling "runners" to exit and explore, trying to find a safe way out...but out to what?

Why they are there, how they can escape, argument as to whether they even wish to escape, form the basis of the tale.

YA movies centre on adventures involving teens "saving the world", or simply saving themselves, without aid from adults. There's minimal, if any, romance and certainly no heaving naked copulating bodies ten minutes into the film (a blessed relief!) No bad language, maybe a veiled message or two. Plots, which mainly travel well-trodden paths, can be cleverly multi-layered to appeal to adults, as allegory, in the best of YA offerings. I didn't find much to be allegorical in The Maze Runner. Messages? Maybe. I found the story to be considerably less layered, less thoughtful than The Giver for instance, far more comic-bookish. I haven't read anything by James Dashner, but it appears he appeals to his young target audience well enough and doesn't need to include any layering.

I haven't decided whether I'll be making an effort to see sequels, and don't feel any strong urge to read the books. I did enjoy the film. The acting is very good overall; maze scenes are excellent. The movie's closing scenes were, for me, off-key - a bit clumsy and clunky, not up to the quality of the rest of the film. The immediate impression I got, from those last scenes, was that lots of lies are being told. Maybe in the sequel films some allegorical content will grow from that, but I'll not be holding my breath.

An upcoming movie I'm most anxious to see, a real sci-fi story with space ship an' all, is Interstellar, due for release in the USA on 7 November.

8 comments:

mike said...

I can only remember a couple of times going to the $0.25 Saturday early matinees to see a new animated Disney release. Television was new at the time and visual entertainment in your very own living room was a novel concept. We watched many, many movies on TV. Disney movies on TV were shown every Sunday in the late afternoon before the Ed Sullivan Show. There were many dystopic sci fi movies, usually shown late Friday and Saturday evenings amongst the other genres, but typically horror-monster movies to provide fodder for nightmares. Comedies were my favorite late night viewing.

As more often than not, the book may be better than the easily digested movie version. The tremendous success of the "Harry Potter" series (book 1 released 1997) spawned a trove of young adult books as competitive hopefuls that have made their way to the more palatable cinema.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Ah yes! I remember the Saturday morning picture shows at our local cinemas (we had two) at one the entry cost was 3 pence, at the other, newer, cinema it was 6 pence. for that princely sum we saw a cartoon, sometimes two, and a western cowboy adventure, often involving Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes and Trigger. Occasionally Tarzan and Jane would show up, just for a change.

When my parents first bought a TV (which broke down regularly) I think programmes were shown only in the evenings...memory hazy here. Later there were children's programmes in the afternoons, but I don't recall seeing any films on TV in England until much later on. I think TV took off much more slowly in the UK than in the USA.

The Harry Potter series, yes that emerged on screen even before the "Twilight" series, and probably is most responsible for today's glut of YA films. Wherever there's money to be made - expect a glut of whatever (war included!)

LB said...

The first movie I remember seeing on the big screen was "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane". I was a toddler, guess my parents couldn't find (or afford) a sitter. Had nightmares for years.:(

A decade or so later, my mom made up for it by taking me and a group of friends to see a reshowing of "Gone With the Wind". We all got dressed up and headed downtown to a big, fancy theater with velvet curtains.

While in elementary school, I also remember seeing "Funny Girl" a bunch of times. I'd memorized the songs and during school recess would entertain friends by singing (and acting out) the tunes. Back then, I was quite the comedian/singer/mimic, could even hit all the notes.

One of my favorites was "I'm The Greatest Star": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dhCfWjRHUI

Must've been my packed 2nd house or maybe Moon in the 5th.:) Whatever it was, I loved the movies and have been a fan of Barbara Streisand's movies ever since.

Like you Twilight, my husband and I are looking forward to seeing "Interstellar"!

Twilight said...

LB ~ I'm tempted to say "You should'a been a Leo!" But that would contradict my "there's no such thing as a Leo" edict. Must be Moon in 5th, as you say. :-)

I remember being scared during a movie. I was taken to see "The Beast with five Fingers" once upon a time - that film stuck in my memory for many, many years. And another movie title now forgotten, with William Bendix in it, put him on my no-go list for the rest of my life after scaring me silly.

Delicate little flowers weren't we!?
;-)

LB said...

Twilight ~ Some movies (games, shows) definitely aren't for children.:(

Normally my Leo inclinations aren't as obvious, but they're still there - natal 12H Uranus (ruler of my 5th house Aquarius Moon) in Leo.

Twilight said...

LB ~ That's true.
Re your Leo - I envy it a little. I have no Leo inclinations regarding show biz, or even public speaking, in real life, even though Leo is in first house (with Pluto). Cancer rising smothers any possibility. I suspect my irritating taste for high quality stuff I cannot sensibly afford might be a Leo offshoot though. ;-/

LB said...

Twilight - I'm not that bold. Most of the time my Virgo ascendant kind of puts a damper on my Leo.

For instance, I can't imagine singing in public (now,as an adult) or having my own blog, which seems to be something you're comfortable with.

Twilight said...

LB ~ I can imagine Virgo, in adulthood anyway, tending to make one too self-critical, and more nervous about things than when less inhibited in youth.

Blogging and communicating online has always come quite naturally and easily to me, for some reason. Similarly I've always felt more comfortable talking on the phone than in person.
Daft, I suppose.