This review is going to be super long because I have a lot of feelings. You’ve been warned.
So I was lucky enough to get to see an advanced screening of The Maze Runner on Wednesday, September 3. And I mean, if you’ve read this blog (x and x), you know I’ve been looking forward to it for quite some time, so this was literally a dream come true. Not only did I get to see this movie a few weeks before it came out, but the screening I attended also involved a post-movie Q&A with the Dylan O’Brien (Thomas), Kaya Scodelario (Teresa), and Will Poulter (Gally) which was amazing. Aside from the excitement in me that came from fangirling about the fact that I was in the same room as these incredible people (which trust me, I was freaking out over the fact that these people I always see online are, indeed, real people) it was amazing to just be able to hear first hand their passion for this movie. I’ll be mentioning bits and pieces of this Q&A throughout the article.
I got the passes through a friend who got an email about it. The event was supported by Gofobo.com, and the email my friend Chelsea got included the RSVP code that she then gave me, because she knew how badly I’ve been wanting to see this movie.
I had kind of bad seats for the screening (I know, I know, I’m super lucky to have even seen the movie at all when I did. Trust me I’m still not over it), in that I was super close to the screen, like third row. This was because before going into the theater you had to choose your seat and they were filling up really quickly and I panicked thinking I might not get ANY seats so I just chose the first two seats I saw (I went with a group of four friends, two of us ticket holders, and the other two as our guests.) The upside to these seats were that then I was really close during the Q&A, the downside being that it was hard for me to see the full visual effects of this movie. Something that is super important (seriously this movie is visually stunning).
Before I get really, deep into my review of this movie I will use this disclaimer: it’s probably going to be really biased. I’ve been following the progress of this movie before it was even a movie. I just found an old Facebook conversation with my sister where we were discussing different fancasts for the movie and talking about our opinions on them and who we pictured for each character. Funny story, the one fancast we both agreed on was Kaya Scodelario as Teresa, that worked out well (although at the time I had never watched Skins so I actually had no idea who she was, which is super weird for me to think about). But at the same time, this also gave me the most opportunity to be disappointed by the movie. I had such high hopes, that it seemed inevitable that I might be let down. I was not.
I’ll start this review by saying this:
God Bless Wes Ball.
In case you don’t know, Wes Ball is the director of this movie. It was his first time directing a feature length film, though he does have a short film Ruin which can be seen here. Ball really got this story. The Maze Runner is a very nuanced and difficult story to portray on screen, but he handled it well. There were changes from the book (which I will talk about a little bit more below), but it was okay. In the Q&A both Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario talked about being blown away by his passion for this project. O’Brien noted a meeting with him where he had a binder full of ideas pitched for this movie, full of sketches of the maze and the grievers. It was really cool to hear them talk about how much work he put into this project firsthand. I’m really glad the movie was in his hands, because they were more than capable.
Okay so the changes from book to movie. I did the thing that I hate to do before seeing the movie adaptation of a book. I read the book like a day before I saw the movie. I hate doing this because then every detail is so fresh in my mind that I can’t help but notice when the movie deviates. However, with this movie I went in reminding myself of the key word in “movie adaptation of a book” which is “adaptation.”
Movies should not be carbon copies of the work they are based off of. That would be boring. Movies and books are completely different forms of entertainment, and should be treated as such. There were deviations from the book, but I understand why. At first I was thinking “wait what, why is this happening because that changes x to y” but then I kind of relaxed and just decided to see where the movie was going. Looking back, the changes make sense. The book is very slow building. It takes a while to get where it is going, and that works for a book because we’re in Thomas’ mind going on the journey with him. This is harder to do in a movie, so things were changed to speed up the course of action. It was actually really cool, because it kept me on my toes, and I still felt surprised by the way things turned out, despite having just reread the book for like the 12th time. Another reason these changes don’t bother me is because, at the core of this movie, the spirit is exactly the same. The soul of the book is transferred perfectly to the movie screen, which is what’s important in an adaptation.
Let’s talk about acting.
First of all, shout out to the casting team, specifically Denise Chamian the casting director. I mentioned above the time my sister and I discussed fancasts, and while none of the people (minus Kaya Scodelario) we talked about were cast, the casting was so spot on. Every member of this cast just was their characters. Even the smaller roles like Frypan (Dexter Darden), Winston (Alexander Flores), and Zart (Joe Adler) were so distinct and recognizable. While the more well known actors like Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario couldn’t be seen as anyone other than Thomas and Teresa, despite playing other distinct characters like Stiles and Effy. You weren’t watching Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Ki Hong Lee, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster fighting their way out of a maze, you were watching Thomas, Teresa, Minho, and Newt fighting their way out of a maze.
They just were their characters.
O’Brien continues to stun me in his acting. If you doubt his ability for this movie, go watch season 3B of Teen Wolf and tell me otherwise. He was incredible in this movie. I didn’t watch Teen Wolf when he was cast in this movie (in fact his casting in this movie is what motivated me to watch the show), and I remember my sister asking who Thomas was and I responded “idk some guy from Teen Wolf” (those were simpler times) but I’m so glad he was cast. A notable scene came towards the end that I won’t mention because spoilers. Let me just say, I knew going in it was going to be a hard scene to watch and holy crap I was blown away by the raw emotion that O’Brien expressed. In all the interviews I’ve seen with him, he really got the character of Thomas and it totally showed.
I used to joke that I should be the one to play Teresa when they made this a movie. I mean I pretty much fit the description of pale skin, blue eyes, and dark hair (this was before I started to dye my hair bright red), but if it couldn’t be me I’m glad it was Kaya Scodelario who got cast. Seriously, jokes aside, she was who I always pictured after seeing her fancast. She was so good for the role. Teresa is one of my favorites. Like seriously she’s my fave. She’s badass, and fights for herself, and Scodelario and Ball both got that. They did a great job with her character. Here is where I’ll talk about the fact that there was no romance in this movie (sorry Dylan told me to tell people about this at the Q&A, I have to). It is important to Teresa’s character that they didn’t romanticize her, and important to the tone of the movie, because in the high stakes situation the characters were in, there was no time for romance. As Scodelario talked about in the Q&A, what drew her to Teresa is this independent and rebellious nature, which is what I love about Teresa too. I’m glad that everyone involved in the production got this. It really defines the movie and makes it stand out.
Now for my other favorite character: Newt. I love Newt. So much. I also love Thomas Brodie-Sangster, so this was casting made in heaven. Sadly we haven’t seen as much of Newt in promotions, but he was still great. The chemistry between O’Brien and Brodie-Sangster was fantastic (actually the chemistry as a whole was amazing, which is in part because the whole cast is super close friends now, which gives me a lot of feelings). I mean I can’t really say much else other than I was just so impressed and happy with Newt and I kind of want to cry because I love him so much. Also Chuck. Blake Cooper is the only person who could be Chuck at this point in my mind. He WAS Chuck and it was amazing. Chuck is a great character because of his age. It really sheds a light on the whole situation to see someone so young in stakes that high. I want to adopt Chuck. Bye.
Ki Hong Lee was amazing as Minho. His body language and facial expressions made him the character. In the books, Minho is know for being more sarcastic and quick witted than the rest of the gladers, and while this was more understated in the movie, the facial expressions he made were making me snicker in my seat. He really captured Minho’s personality in subtle moments, which was fantastic and I can’t wait to see how he treats the character in the next movie. Which is really where Minho becomes a stand out personality too.
Aml Ameen was the perfect Alby (which the cast recognized in the Q&A when answering my friend Chelsea’s question of what other character they would play, by saying they would love to be Alby, but Ameen was Alby perfectly). In the book, it’s kind of questionable whether or not you should like Alby, because you’re seeing him through Thomas’ eyes. But in the movie, you’re more able to understand his motivation and stoic, tough nature. It was pretty fantastic.
Gally was probably changed the most from the book. He was more outright antagonistic in the movie than the book and Will Poulter did an amazing job. You both hate Gally, but kind of understand him, which is really really cool. I’ve always found Gally to be a super interesting character and I’m glad we got to see more of him.
All of the supporting players were fantastic, with a shoutout to Chris Sheffield who played Ben. For someone with so few scenes, he was incredible in his role. Seriously all the acting in this movie is amazing. I cannot think of one weak role. And it’s really incredible considering how many of these actors are really up and coming. It’s fantastic, and I see this movie really being a launch pad for everyone involved. Author James Dashner has a cameo, but I’m super mad at myself because I forgot to look and missed it. Though I can assume it takes place near the end, so keep your eyes peeled!
Some final notes about this movie. The score is stunning (I love a good movie score), it’s visually beautiful, and everything was great. Would I have liked to hear some of the more popular book quotes in the movie? Yes, but I’m not mad they weren’t there. They would only add to the movie, not detract.
Please Please Please go see this movie. So many people need to see it because really it’s incredible. The fact that it was filmed by a first time director, with a cast of relatively unknown actors, in 40 days is even more incredible. Please support this movie, whether you’ve read the book or not, because it deserves every ounce of support it will get. If you haven’t read the book, I also highly suggest you do, but still see the movie.
The Maze Runner Premiers in September 19. Go see it!
P.S. I’ll use these gifs to sum up my feelings:
It took me a really long time and an embarrassing about of google searches to find those gifs