Hungry Maze Diverging
The Maze Runner Film Review
Doing for Cube what The Hunger Games did for Battle Royale, The Maze Runner is actually a pretty decent addition to the plethora of Young Adult adaptations of late.The premise for The Maze Runner is fairly simple but also very effective; fairly familiar but also, particularly with all the other YA franchises out there, just different enough. A group of teens have mysteriously been dumped in the middle of a giant maze. Every month, a bunch of supplies and a new kid gets delivered to the group. And the latest addition, Thomas, is just as confused as all the others were when they first arrived. He doesn’t understand why the group are prepared to stay put in the centre of this maze; to forage and build and survive. He just wants to get out and escape through the maze. But he has yet to discover just what is in the maze, and just why nobody has ever survived a night in there.Surprisingly dark and remarkably tense – particularly given the audience that it was intended for, and the restrictions of the rating – The Maze Runner is actually a very enjoyable little Young Adult adaptation. Despite the weakness of the lead actor, the supporting cast are reasonably colourful and well-rounded, and the clever premise holds everything together. Although it’s impossible to avoid the feeling that this outing is paced as just a first instalment – you might occasionally wonder why it doesn’t get moving a little quicker – by the same token this does allow the tension to build and the characters to be slightly better developed. Once in the maze, things are surprisingly scary, and it’s no wonder that this ended up slightly cut by UK censors. It’s a decent teen survival actioner – part Cube, part Lord of the Flies; part Hunger Games, part Resident Evil.
Blu-ray Picture QualityThe Maze Runner hits UK Region B-locked Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Detail is outstanding throughout, providing some fantastic fine object observations, with impressive skin texturing and a richly layered background teeming with flourishes that accentuate the authenticity and smooth out the CG so that it’s all-but indiscernible.
Although most major features tend to excel in picture these days, it’s nice to know that The Maze Runner is no exception.
The colour scheme runs a tiny bit hot, with skin tones looking more orange than authentic, but the sun-baked location somewhat justifies that look, at least in hindsight. The green landscapes are rich and vibrant, with wonderful trees and grass and vines creeping up the impossibly giant blocks of rock that comprise the maze. Black levels are strong and allow for impressive night sequences and strong shadow detail, and overall this is an excellent video presentation, just shy of reference perfection and easily demo-worthy.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track actually makes that leap up to perfection, providing a wonderfully full and complete aural experience which brings you right into the heart of this mystery feature, as the monolithic walls rumble in the background and creatures creep around at night, enabling a full use of the sound experience which provides everything from thundering bombast to growling guttural underfoot undercurrents; from ambient atmospherics to precision surround dissemination.
The Maze Runner’s 7.1 track is up there with the best that we’ve heard in the last few months.
Effects observations accentuate the nasties hiding in the shadows as they get ready to pounce, and make you feel like the walls of your own house are closing in as the maze rumbles open and closed. Both vast and claustrophobic, the track makes you feel the full breadth of the spectrum on offer, and further heightens the tension with a decent score providing a welcome backbone to the rest of the affair. With clear and coherent dialogue riding atop the rest of the elements, it doesn't get much better than The Maze Runner''s exceptional audio.
Blu-ray ExtrasIn terms of extras, we get an excellent selection of supplementals, headlined by a solid audio commentary by director Wes Ball and co-screenwriter T. S. Nowlin, who discuss the process of adapting this latest YA book series for the big screen. Then there’s a three-quarter-hour multi-part documentary, Navigating the Maze: The Making of The Maze Runner, which discusses pretty-much every aspect of the production, offering up plenty of behind the scenes snippets and cast and crew interview clips. There’s also a hefty half-hour Visual Effects Reel coupled with a brief 4-minute VFX Breakdown by Method. The Chuck Diaries spends 5 minutes looking at the Twitter-based casting process for the character of Chuck. Almost 20 minutes of Deleted Footage – with optional commentary by the director – throws up a few interesting titbits, and a 7 minute Gag Reel gives us a few laughs. There’s also a Gallery of stills and storyboards and a few Trailers.
Perhaps the most interesting addition, however, is Wes Ball’s short film, Ruin, an animated post-apocalyptic sci-fi effort which is reportedly the reason why Ball got The Maze Runner gig in the first place. And you can see why. Well worth checking out.
The Maze Runner Blu-ray VerdictIt’s a shame really that this whole thing ultimately remains merely a first chapter in a much bigger picture, and that it struggles to stand on its own. A slightly tweaked ending, and this would have still been left open for a sequel, but not left so open-ended that you basically need to see the next film in order to understand what on earth is going on. It’s a small, but not insignificant, frustration when it comes to modern moviemaking and franchise building. But, thankfully, it doesn’t stop this from being an enjoyable new first chapter in a worthy new YA franchise.
It’s a decent, thrilling teen survival actioner – part Cube, part Lord of the Flies; part Hunger Games, part Resident Evil.
This Region B-locked UK Blu-ray boasts excellent video and outstanding, demo audio which should draw you right into the maze. There's also a fantastic selection of extras - including the interesting little animated short film that got the director this gig in the first place - leaving this a must-have purchase for fans of the film, and a decent enough rental/blind buy for those who like The Hunger Games but are still on the fence about Divergent. Recommended.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.