The Maze Runner Review

Oh, people who I witnessed walking out of the screening of The Maze Runner well before the end of the film, how I envy you. You didn’t have to be there for work and you could leave at any time and thankfully you found the perfect moment to realize you could move on and live happy, healthy lives without sitting through one of the worst films I have ever had the immense displeasure of ever sitting through. You guys were the true heroes that night. Well, you and the numerous people on the way out who also wondered aloud why they didn’t just get up and leave on their own.

I considered walking out of The Maze Runner. It would have been only the second film I ever walked out of in a theatre in 18 years doing this job (the first being Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star), but had I walked out, I couldn’t have in good conscience written a full review about how much I fucking detest this film and everything it stands for. I couldn’t use this as the occasion to say that The Maze Runner perfectly encapsulates everything that’s wrong about studio filmmaking today. I wouldn’t have been able to say that this is the most insidious and morally reprehensible young adult novel adaptation I have ever seen. I wouldn’t be able to say that this is an even hoarier cash grab than any of the Transformers movies; a truly soulless film made for soulless human beings. I couldn’t say that if you are a parent and you willfully bring your child to see this bullshit that I will forever judge your life choices. I hate this film this much (and I hate using the word hate, but here it’s very appropriate) and I haven’t had my time wasted this much in years. And considering that 2014 has already come up with a bumper crop of films I would consider placing on my list of worst films I have ever seen in my life, this might be the worst accomplishment possible. It’s incompetent in every way, and that’s not even the worst of it.

It’s an idiot plot designed to keep idiotic people in idiotic situations. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up on a mysterious elevator ride to a mysterious place with no memory of his previous life. He’s transported to a place called The Glades, home to a bunch of self-sufficient teenage boys that once found themselves in the same situation. It’s a Lord of the Flies-esque community from which there is no escape except through a giant and mysterious maze that are home to some shoddily designed robotic-scorpion-spider things (called Grievers) and the outline of the maze supposedly changes every night, making it difficult to map. Thomas is joined shortly after his arrival by the only girl to surface in the woods (played by Kaya Scodelario), and both of them seem to have some sort of connection to what led to all these lost boys getting abandoned in the first place.

It took almost record time for me to realize I was going to despise everything else. This might be the most clichéd film to attempt to cash in on the race for studios to land the next Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Twilight. There isn’t a single line of dialogue in this script that isn’t expository or that doesn’t ascribe some sort of cutesy, marketable name to every person, monster, or plant within the universe. Immediately you wonder how much of these kids’ memories could have been wiped? They can’t remember their past, but they can somehow figure out how to build these elaborate structures and figure out how dictatorships are supposed to run. What is the history of this place? Well, that won’t be answered until the final reveal (one of the most insipid sequel set-ups I have ever seen), so any hope for logic or a semblance of pacing gets thrown out the window well before that. It’s a film expressly made with the hopes that people will get caught up in the nastiness it has to offer so much that they need to see the sequel for any hopes of an explanation.

Every character is stock and worthless, performed by actors who are largely too green and untested to deliver only the most perfunctory of line readings. O’Brien is a null set, almost dead to the world and only really showcasing two emotions: anger and anger with a side of confusion. Scodelario comes in late and adds nothing except the notion that the boys won’t know what to do with a girl after spending up to three years left to their own devices. It’s a notion that never gets explored since she comes with a note saying she’ll be the last person to ever be sent up to the mysterious land, and things have already gotten wildly out of control by that point anyway. Then there’s the generic leader type (Aml Ameen), the well meaning chubby kid (Blake Cooper), the bullying type who wishes he was in charge (Will Poulter), and the kid who probably should be the next one to lead them (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, in the film’s only truly great performance, putting on a real clinic in how to make something out of less than nothing). They’re all threadbare archetypes because actually giving any of these people any sort of depth would be too hard and distract from all of the “elaborate world building” that’s going on.


But the world that’s being built is stupid, sadistic, and arbitrary. There are only two lessons to be gleaned from this adaptation of James Dashner’s bestselling novel, and the first is tied to just how shoddy the construction of the world actually is. The biggest lesson here is to never question anything and to just react and adapt. When Thomas starts asking obvious questions about why they don’t just scale the walls of the maze and get a look from above, he’s cut down because “anything you can think of trying we tried three times already.” What about tunneling? I’m sure you didn’t try disassembling the elevator that brings people and supplies up every month, even though you guys can clearly build you own homes out of what you have. Why would you say “the ivy doesn’t reach the top” of the walls when the audience can clearly see that it does? You have pulleys for everything else so how is this so hard?

It’s stated that no one has ever survived a night in the maze alone, not even the titular “runners” who have been asked to map the place, so why did their belief in teamwork and sticking together not carry over into getting them through the maze? Especially, since, you know, that’s how they’ll need to get through there in the first place. How were these kids not able to figure any of this out in three years? It’s a film that starts to explain its own casual stupidity with made up buzzwords that could exist only in this world, only to backtrack and castigate the audience for even trying to make sense of it all.

Everything about The Maze Runner smacks of carefully orchestrated obscurity and vagueness designed to pull one over on the dumbest of viewers, but even those who don’t expect much from their movies deserve better than what’s essentially the kiddie equivalent of torture porn. Rather than struggling the ethics, emotions, or even the dynamics of the situation, we’re instead treated to brutally deluded violence from people who must think that Lord of the Flies only exists for the brutal death of Piggy. The sequences involving the creatures within the maze are more than intense enough for a film aimed at teens and tweens, but what’s even more depressing are the human interactions.

There’s no humanity on display in any frame of first time feature filmmaker Wes Ball’s work here, which would be admirable if it wasn’t so braindead in every other respect. As the film progresses and the kids decide to try and escape the maze world once and for all, it becomes almost hellishly violent to a point where I hope and pray the American MPAA sleeps well knowing that they still punish people for salty language, but allow films like this to get pushed through with PG-13 ratings unscathed. The Purge wasn’t this violent and depraved, and as much as that movie sucks and is reprehensible on a thematic level, at least that bothered to come up with some sort of cultural subtext. Here, nothing is put into place that won’t be used in a sequel. It’s two ungodly hours of depressing set up designed to make people feel awful instead of keep them entertained. The second message of the film by the end is that bullying is the greatest thing ever, and that we’re nothing without the psychological torture that we have to endure to suffer through our soulless lives. You know? FOR KIDS!

But what of the actual technical acumen that went into this film? That’s equally incompetent. Scenes in the film seem like they might have been actually arranged out of order, like no one saw the final cut. The action sequences with the unconvincing monsters are darkly lit blurs that make one pine for the relative splendour of a Michael Bay production. Even within fight scenes, shots will alternate with little rhyme or reason. Someone will be on top of a monster fighting it, then another random angle shows them below it, then another has them back on it. It can’t even get a simple fight scene right, and that kind of wrongheadedness carries through the entire film to a conclusion so laughably stupefying and thematically depressing that I wish I could do what the chief villain does: puts a gun to her head and blows her brains out on camera to a room full of horrified youngsters.

Of course she’s not dead because we need a sequel to explain why she isn’t dead and why these kids need to suffer more. Unlike most reviews I write where I eschew spoilers for people who want to see the film regardless of what I thought of it, I am throwing that out the window for this one because I don’t want you to see this film. (Plus, it’s based on a book which although I haven’t read it, if this is a faithful adaptation, it makes it just as shitty.)  I am through playing nice because I have nothing nice to say about this filth.

Teens went to violent movies in the 80s and 90s as an escape from how shitty their lives were. It sucks being a teenager, and regardless of whatever moral ground you could take on those films rightly or wrongly, they were even at their worst an escape of some sort. I love violent movies, and this isn’t even coming from a nostalgic perspective. I think we just need to start talking about how we use violence in movies. You’ll see more about this next week when I talk about The Equalizer (which, spoiler, also sucks in a lot of the same ways), but for now just ask yourself what kind of violence you like in a film and if The Maze Runner is right for you. If you answer that you like violence that has no meaning and you just like to watch good guys and bad guys go at it or that you like violence that has deep meaning and implications, you will equally hate this film. If you answer that you are so desensitized to violence that you can’t see it as fun or as a way to move the story along, you need to see if you actually have a pulse before going to watch this because you might already be dead.

The Maze Runner serves to only reinforce through shoddily crafted, done to death, fantasy that life has sucked, will always suck, and it will never get better. If there is a sequel, not only do I refuse to review it, but I refuse to even assign it to someone. This kind of cynically crafted product is the only case I need to point to in the “what’s wrong with movies today” argument. If I could snatch up every DCP and film print of this garbage and bury them in a landfill, I would do it in a heartbeat.

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  • Issac

    You’re a cunt and this is a pathetic review. How anybody would ever be able to read through this dogshit, I have no idea.

  • Issac

    You’re a cunt and this is a pathetic review. How anybody would ever be able to read through this dogshit, I have no idea.

  • Zack

    I’m pretty ambivalent about YA, but this guy just made laugh. You can discern when you should take a review seriously or when you can just laugh.

  • Timothy Chapman

    Hey Mr. Reviewer…could it be that you just don’t get it. Too sophisticated for you perhaps? Your review is lacking of anything but a bunch of meaningless words. Check out some reviews by people who actually understand the art movies and the skill of a review. Then go back and watch it again…or better yet…just go.

  • bookreader

    get out of your mom’s basement, wipe off the cheeto dust from your fingers, and find a life please…it’ll be for your own good

  • rz

    Andrew, as a reviewer, you need to let go and learn to freely express your opinion!

    Thanks for another awesome review..that’s why I’ve keep coming back to Dorkshelf. I don’t need to waste my money on garbage and you tell it like it is.

  • Tara W

    Wow….Andrew….tell us how you really feel :) I am super disappointed I loved the books and was really looking forward to taking my 16 year old brother to see this movie (he got me to read the books). thanks for the heads up!

  • nc

    Probably still going to see the movie out of curiosity, but thumbs up for the honesty and opinion.

  • Mars

    just shut up

  • captain gally

    This is is pretty honest review, but I don’t know if you truly understand what the movie is saying…

  • Bob

    You should still see it , you know form your own opinion?

  • socks

    Sounds like someone didn’t read the books before seeing the film. The whole series is pretty depressing. That’s the point. Shock and horror that the film follows that trend.

  • Mazerunner

    I don’t care is you don’t like the movie. What type of mature adult talks about someone’s movie like this… Constantly swearing and being so so rude. Obviously you didn’t read the book so you don’t have the brains to understand more complex concepts. I think it is funny how you honk that the movie is so violent… If it is rated PG13 it must not be too bad. Grow up. I am astonished of how rude and biast you can be. What do you have against the people who made the movie? Think about the actors who spent hours and hours every day for over a month on this movie. You make me sick.

  • Bonnie

    I have talked to several ppl who went to screenings to see it. Every single one of them loved the movie

  • Bogeybill

    Clever review. This article has turned my ship away from this armada of awfulness. It’s well-written vitriol, my friend. Ignore Will Whats-His-Face and his herd. Really enjoy all your work at Dork Shelf.

  • Mandy

    I am in my thirties and a huge fan of the books. I saw an advance screening, and NO ONE walked out of the movie (a large majority of the crowd was older and didn’t even read the books or know what it was about), and most comments were good. The bad was that it was creepy and they didn’t expect that. One women thought it should be R rated due to the last part of the movie. I loved the movie and will be seeing it again. Everything about it was amazing. The acting, cinematography, and CGI were spot on. If you are a fan of the books, go see the movie. Don’t listen to this guy, who probably likes to talk shit about all films to make himself feel intelligent.

  • 엘리나

    That’s the shuckiest shuck-faced “review” I’ve ever read.

  • val

    No smart thoughts in here, how old is exactly this guy? 12? 14? so much pointless anger and empty words

  • Guest

    I can

  • Sofia

    Well if you didn’t like the movie fine but you don’t have to talk this way about it. I think it was worst the way you expressed your opinion than the “violence” on the movie which was not the way you described it. You said O’Brien only showed two emotions: anger and anger with a side of confusion but c’mon I mean you got into this place which btw is The Glade no The Glades and you’re not going to be happy, it’s obvious. The thing you wrote about not remebering anything but they knew how to build and that stuff, this kind of information is stored differently than the personal memories and the personal memories are the ones they don’t remember, before judging that you should do some research. I did my research about you but I didn’t find anything so my question is did you study something about movies, art or somerhing related that can give you the knowledge to criticize the way you did? Are you an expert in this field? I don’t know what you were expecting from this movie but I don’t see why you expressed your opinion the way you did, why did you get so angry because of this movie? I believe in freedom of expression but I think you were too rude and offensive not only for the fans but for all the team that worked in this movie.

  • Sofia

    And by the way, most comments from the people, who at the end are the ones that pay to get a ticket and make the movie win money, were good, they liked the movie. I didn’t see anyone walk out of the movie.

  • Curious

    Did you read the book first? The book explains some of the issues you seem to have with it, such as how their memories work. Either way, I respectfully disagree, I saw an advance screening of the film and quite enjoyed it (to each his own I guess). I would definitely encourage people to see it and decide for themselves!

  • Brad

    A film shouldn’t have to rely on the book to make sense. It should stand alone.

  • Shannon Hutchins

    Was this a legitimate review or merely a bashing session? I mean everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and yours really won’t keep me up at night, but your diction leaves a lot to be desired. I mean I just came away from this review thinking you are rather unprofessional. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it but to each their own I guess.

  • Shelby

    If you read the books, the movie was probably easier to understand. I read the series a good four or five times because I loved them so much! My only negative comment is that they left some stuff out, which comes with EVERY book to movie adaptation. I think they did a fantastic job with a 350+ page book crammed in to two or so hours.

  • Diana Carrillo

    How can u consider yourself a true critic if you have such a closed mind??? yeah ok i get it you didnt like the movie its your opinion and all, but you didn’t have to make a 2080 words whine about it (i checked), so please in the future become a better more professional critic or stop doing it.

  • John

    I’m no YA book fan – nor do I enjoy YA movies at all after the recent ones like Divergent, but I find this jawdroppingly hilarious that this was actually written by a paid critic and is published globally. Very insulting, I must say.

    The movie wasn’t at all that bad either – and I just wished you would’ve done the same to Divergent rather than this.

  • Dylan

    Lmao, this review made me want to set myself on fire. I don’t think you understand what the movie is saying. And all those things that made you pissed off are in the books.

  • ellstar

    A reviewer doesn’t owe it to the actors in the film to write a good review. That’s not how reviews work.

  • Original glader

    Ok I find this ridiculous that you could be so idiotic about reviewing a damn movie. You my friend must be so unintelligent that you could not appreciate the film. I went and saw it yesterday and I love it. I did not happen so see any “heroes” leave the theater mid movie. So I’m curious as to what theater you watched this film at. And seriously? The purge was far more violent than the maze runner. What was even so violent about a griever chasing after Thomas? I certainly wouldn’t say it was far more violent than the purge. I feel like you are to unintelligent to understand the entirety and concept of the movie. Because this is by far the stupidest and most inaccurate review I have ever come across. I hope some day you grow a brain

  • Chloe123

    Ok. You obviously have not read the books. When a book is made into a movie you can’t judge the movie without reading the books. Ya I don’t mind if you see it without reading them and say you didn’t like it very much but to write an entire shucking review about it you should have read the book. Your brain obviously is too far past the gone to grasp what an incredible job they did turning this into a movie. You have no right to say those thing about the actors or the people who made it happen. You cannot see how amazing these actors are and that this is the beginning of a fantastic career for them. About the part about the pg/pg13, there wasn’t even much violence in it. The most that happens is they have small fistfights and there is not even that much violence at the end. Yes. I put maze runner references in there. Maybe if you weren’t such a shank you would’ve read the book and gotten them.

  • aMAZEing

    It is a trilogy. Things will be explained in The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure.
    Also in the end of the movie.
    You wrote you walked out of the theatre because nothing made sense? I never read a book in that everything is clear from the first page. Sometimes you have to wait until the end.
    Nothing is as senseless as you think.
    I recommend you to read the books to unterstand the story, if you do not want to wait for the next movie.
    Of course, a movie must stand for itself, but please just open your eyes and even TRY to unterstand it.

  • I’m not telling you my name

    I understand that maybe you yourself did not like this movie. But judging by your insults on how the maze runner is illogical and does not give an explanation until the sequel, I must wonder, have you even read the book before watching the movie? Becuase if you had read the full trilogy by the author, I asure you, you would fully understand the movie.

  • Dom

    When I began reading this review, I honestly thought (or hoped?) that this was a satire site. I thought that maybe Will Poulter was overreacting, but I’ve never seen him so animated about something as petty as a movie review in my life. And, holy crap, he had every right to say everything he did to you, Andrew, and much more. I’ve never seen such a ridiculous, unprofessional review before, and I hope I never have to again. It’s people like you that make me wish to leave the business altogether. I could point out the noble themes in The Maze Runner, both film and book, but I have a feeling you’re so blinded by your own stupidity and closed-mindedness that you wouldn’t even be able to comprehend what I was attempting to tell you. I could also point out the incredibly polished acting techniques used by the young cast, or the excellent movie-making decisions made by Wes Ball, but you probably could not grasp them, either. While I hope you never again review a movie, I do hope that someday you’ll take your pride down a notch or two, and maybe even learn something from great stories such as The Maze Runner.

  • Minho, hater on dicks aka you

    Shut your shuck face you stupid piece of klunk go die in a hole

  • EruditeWolf

    That’s why people who don’t read the books before seeing the films are shucking slintheads! And, stop bloody comparing every shucking book series to the hunger games!

  • Random Opinion

    The one thing I’ll say is this; people shouldn’t have to read the books to understand the movie. The movie – as an adaption, as a work in it’s own right – should be able to stand alone. There were a few parts in the MR that weren’t explained well enough, things that were clarified or done differently in the book. There were plot holes. I will give you that. I don’t understand most of your other points. Violence. There is very little blood – besides Griever – being spilled in this movie. Even the fighting doesn’t involve an excess of crushing, impaling, etc… and given that the Grievers are walking cleavers with teeth, I’d hardly say that the movie makers overstepped their bounds in making a PG-13 movie. The acting. I agree wholeheartedly that Brodie Sangster did a wonderful job, but so did Will Poulter. You could feel the resentment and suspicion evolving from the get-go, and yeah, he played his part of a bully at heart really well. Thomas is a bit of a flat character, but Dylan O’Brian worked with what he had, and we see fear, confusion, anger and contempt in good measures. Ki Hong Lee was despair and desperation in equal parts, so where do you get off on saying that the acting was awful?

    Fight scenes. I didn’t notice the inconsistencies you mentioned, though your expert eye may have picked up more than mine. Even if that were the case, however, you’re not attempting to discourage other ‘expert’ critics from viewing the MR, you’re trying to stop regular movie goers. And I, as a regular movie goer, did not notice it, so you’re missing the mark. The sequel build up. The fact is, sometimes mysteries aren’t wrapped up with a bow in one movie. Sometimes, even in real life, you stumble through things for a long time before getting to the truth of the matter. The show was fairly cliche in the cliffhanger “comecomecome see the next movie” ending, but, as a critic, you should be aware that that is, in and of itself, a marketing technique, a film making technique. It’d be a strange trilogy that seems to end everything after the first movie.

    You had some points – good ones, even – but they’re difficult to find in all your thesaurus ranting. All in all, I thought your review entirely too emotional, entirely too one sided and entirely too short-sighted without even the possible saving grace of some measure of humor. Perhaps you were so disenchanted with the movie that you fell asleep during most of it? That’s all I can assume, based on your description of the film.

  • Agnes Griph

    Don’t you guys get it? This so called reviewer obviously has no life but sitting and writing novel-long complaints on movies. Just ignore him, he’s a jerk. Personally I don’t hate (well, Andrew says he likes the word “hate”) this guy, I just find it extremely funny why a middle aged man would come up with lies (people walking out of the movie) just to confirm his own pessimistic view of it (he’s problaby a pessimistic being generally) but the most funny thing is that this oldie were going to a teenmovie! Hah.

    You’re embarrasing yourself sir!

  • Keeper of the Runners

    Wow. Just what a Greenie Movie Fan will say. It is confusing, but that’s why you should read the freakin’ books! There is a reason why it is a film adaptation of a book, to read the trilogy then to watch the bloody movie.

    You know what? You have no right to say such things about a film that you don’t even know a sh*t about. Grow a pair, read the book and then, maybe just then, you can say what you think about this movie.

    OK? Shut up and read it.

  • book nerd

    this reviewer is a lying, old, hateful snob that should go dye in a hole1

  • Anthony

    Click bait troll

  • Momoe

    you’re shank jfc

  • PhoenixAlpha

    You should have put ” (Plus, it’s based on a book which although I haven’t read it)” at the beginning of your review. You understand nothing.

  • PhoenixAlpha

    He’s just a dumb shank who probably klunks his pants when he tries to go outside of the basement he lives in.

  • Casey

    I do agree that you shouldn’t have to read the books to understand the movie because the movie is a seperate thing. However I do think that this review is incredibly rude over the top and arrogant. To me it seems like you are trying to take a stab it everyone and everything in this movie just because you didn’t like it. There were some faults with it yes, I’m not going to lie. But to say that every single thing was absolutely terrible is just immature. I think that acting it this film was very good, especially from such a young, new cast. I think that the script was well written, effects were believable and real looking and the story had depth. It was flaws. But this is not a review it is a childish rant. No wonder Will Poulter had a go at you on twitter. I think The Maze Runner was great but I also think the sequels to come will be even better.

  • Mark Doldon

    You seem to be forgetting the target audience, who also made the Twilight films such a success. If anyone can consider Robart Pattinson or Kristen Stewart to be actors, I’m sure that this movie cannot be much worse. Do any of the actors have facial expressions at any point? If so, their acting exceeds the Twilight films. Remember, it’s all about pleasing a particular audience, no matter how you or I might feel about that audience or their ability to judge good vs bad.

  • Sharlto

    The comments on this are getting to be angering. I’m not going to defend this review: it’s absolutely atrocious, and goes against everything film criticism is supposed to stand for. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but you are a professional film critic. Rant like this to your friends, not for your job.

    That said, people who say that you’re an idiot if you don’t read the book before the movie or anything like that need to shut up. If I wanted to read the book, I would do that. A film is a film. Adapting a book means including (or excluding) the necessary information to make it fit in a good run time and to be sensical. Fight Club, for instance, does this masterfully, and even transcends its source material.

    I enjoyed this film a lot, as someone who hasn’t read the books, but the ending left me with a cocked head and a lot of questions. Many people say things are explained better in the book, but that’s irrelevant; I’m not reading the book, I’m watching the film adaptation. Film and literature are not the same medium for a reason, so I shouldn’t have to do fictional research to learn the plot of a film. The film should do the job on its own.

    End rant.

  • Donny Brasco

    The best part of this wretched, soul-sucking movie? This review. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Guest

    Dude seriously

  • Nat

    I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but at least be mature about it for christ’s sake. You just sounded like a whining infant the entire time.