Poster of the Maze Runner
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Maze Runner: Why You’re Missing Out If You Haven’t Already Watched It

Ananya

Books are infamous for being better than their movie counterparts, but not when it comes to this spectacular series: The Maze Runner film trilogy, adapted from a book series of the same name by James Dashner. 

What You Should Know Before Diving Into the Trilogy

The first movie, creatively titled ‘The Maze Runner’ introduces us to the main protagonist, Thomas—from scene one, he’s unable to recall anything but his first name (Memento vibes, anyone?). The place he finds himself in is called the Maze, and if that isn’t ominous enough, the other boys living there have no memories prior to their arrival at their walled prison either. In a premise similar to other dystopian post-apocalyptic films, the Maze is full of dangers. Moving and closing walls, dripping ivy, mechanical monsters called Grievers, creepy signs like W.I.C.K.E.D outside the Maze’s only safe spot; dubbed the Glade.

Thomas becomes a ‘maze runner’, tasked with surveying and mapping the surrounding labyrinthine structure, hoping to find not only a way out but also a reason for his predicament. The society at the Glade is medieval at best; only male youths partaking in their own particular task inhabit the Maze. 

Thomas struggles with acclimatizing in the strange new world he finds himself in. It doesn’t help that his arrival shakes the groundwork on which the Glade had been operating, both literally and figuratively. Allegiances are formed, new information is discovered, and the plot to a bigger conspiracy is unearthed…sound interesting yet? Fans of the Hunger Games movies, or The Walking Dead, will find the Maze Runner trilogy not only engaging; but also lets them indulge in that spark of adrenaline only thrillers and action scenes can imbue in its watchers. 

the Maze in the Maze runner movies
The foreboding Maze, with the Glade in the center

To skip to the meat of things: Why every sci-fi, action, and adventure-lover should watch the Maze Runner film trilogy.

1) The Chair-Gripping Tease, and the Payoff at the End

Unlike other young adult movies, such as Divergent and the aforementioned Hunger Games, we don’t know the shape of the formidable enemies in the Maze up until the end. Allies are allies….until they suddenly aren’t. The trend in movies, especially aimed at the YA audience, gives us what appears to be a cataclysmic, ground-shattering build-up only to disappoint viewers at the end, leaving us with the feeling is that really it? Those of us who sighed mournfully at these kinds of movies have nothing to fear from the Maze Runner, which not only sells its cover but also manages to add in a twist the viewers never would have seen coming. There’s a kind of inevitability that underlines every scene, and when it does click together, viewers will be left begging for more. 

The monster from sci-fi nightmares, part machine and part muscle; meet the Griever

2) The Characters Float Off The Screen 

Gone are the days of two-dimensional characters, the plain old Mary Sues, the people that have you wrinkling your brow, tugging at the sleeve at your partner to ask Which one is he again? 

Thomas and his crew are more than capable of making you laugh at their dark, running-for-your life sort of humor. They have you rooting for them in every step as they attempt to navigate the Maze and their lives. Thomas himself has a dry sense of humor, much credit to Dylan O’Brien, the actor who portrays him. He has the typical self-sacrificing hero complex, but what makes him different from other movie protagonists is his genuineness. If you suddenly woke up in a dark elevator taking you to the death trap that is the Maze, you’d probably react how Thomas reacted: he freaked out. And we get to follow him on his journey as he attempts to adjust.

Onwards, to the rest of his crew; Minho, Thomas’s fellow maze-runner, with his out-of-place genius comedy, and Newt, with his stubbornness and wit. Chuck, one of the youngest Gladers with a heart of gold, is guaranteed to break your heart. The lead female character, Teresa appears somewhat at the midway mark. She does a decent job at maintaining that aura of mystery as she enters an all-male world. As the only major female character (in the first movie at least), she manages to hold her own and teach the boys a thing or two. Gally, the main antagonist forms a significant hatred towards Thomas.

Each character has a specific motive, from the scheming Newt to the youngest Glader, Chuck, who just wants to find his parents and go home.  The Maze Runner does a good job in weaving  internal character arcs from the books into the films. 

The Gladers. From left to right: Alby, Newt, Thomas and Gally

3) The Maze Keeps On Delivering 

If you thought the plot of the first movie was intriguing, then boy, you’re in for a surprise. The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, the Maze Runner’s sequels, are no slackers in the action department. Some of the sequences display gorgeous cinematography and stunts. If you judged solely based on the plot, I’d say it keeps getting better and better.

If the Maze Runner focuses on the Maze and finding a way out, the other two films broaden the apocalyptic world we’ve only gotten a glimpse of so far. They make the Maze Runner trilogy a haunting masterpiece of humanity’s future. This is where the science fiction part of it all comes in; with the mentions of the solar flares and the virus-infected Cranks…an eerie picture of what the world is currently going through. Hints have been hidden in the initial films that are so fun to go back to and analyze. Just a really well-planned series as a whole. 

Virus-infected Crank, seen in the Scorch Trials

4) The Glorious, Glorious Action In the Maze Runner

Do yourself a favor, and watch the trailer…I mean, come on.  It doesn’t get much better than gritty chases through stone walls or stabbing a wayward Griever with a kitchen knife (looking at you, Frypan). Not to mention sticking a huge needle into your skin on some vague notion that its supposed to bring back your memories. Do I wish they’d found a less disgusting way to manage it? Yes, but that’s not important. The train sequence in the Death Cure seriously rocks. The depictions of Denver, Colorado as the Last City is sufficiently harrowing and makes your hair stand up on end. The visual effects are top-notch. The monsters actually look like monsters, a feat that many movies are still struggling to achieve. 

If you’re looking for other movies with this kind of action, make sure to check out these.

An attempt at rescuing the Gladers trapped inside the carriage, aka the Epic Train Scene from the Death Cure

5) The Film Trilogy Mirrors the Books

James Dashner’s Maze Runner books are also a trilogy, titled the same as the movies. His writing style is sparse and evocative-his specialty being humor in a world there’s not much to laugh at and his attention to human nature. After all, the main characters may be badass, but at their core, Dashner emphasizes that they are just boys, with dreams and dilemmas to work through. 

All of this ties up in the movies, the general vibe being more or less the same. Book fans should be glad to see these characters brought to life. There are a few notable moments in the book either missing or changed, but that’s to be expected. Words on pages and movie scenes require translation by the scriptwriters, and for the most part, they have done their job well. There are also additional books that give us more insight on the maze runner world, namely The Kill Order, and The Fever Code, both intriguing reads. 

shows the Maze Runner trilogy books
The Maze Runner books, with two standalones that help us understand the fictional world even better

6) There’s Something In the Maze Runner For Everyone

Looking for character-driven movies? Check. 

Looking for mindless action to drown out the boredom of a monster-less life? This is the series for you.

Apocalypse, impending doom, interesting technology, world building (and destroying!). The Maze Runner trilogy has it all. Any of the movies in the Maze Runner trilogy can be watched as a standalone; all of them have strong internal plots that need only basic understanding to grasp.

The Maze Runner trilogy main male and female leads
Thomas and Teresa talk about their future

7) The End of the Maze Runner Trilogy

How many of us have hooked onto a series, only to be left dissatisfied at its ending? Either a beloved character is now six feet under, or it simply didn’t deliver what was promised from the start. There’s no sense of completion, no edge of satisfaction. The Maze Runner trilogy, ending with the Death Cure, breaks the infamous I-still-don’t-know-what-to-feel finale that most movies are so fond of. It delivers what was on the can: a story of love and loss, redemption and revenge, and a twist that’s just on the right side of bittersweet. There’s no unrealistic expectation of a miracle, no Eleventh-Hour Samaritan swooping in to save the day. Instead, Thomas and the crew work with what they’ve been given, and experience losses of their own along the way.

The ending of the trilogy is gutting, even a little bleak. But fans will come to realize that there was only one possible solution to the Maze; this undertaking will come with a price. It culminates in a hopeful note, reminding us that beauty and tragedy, locks and keys, dreams and nightmares, usually come in pairs. 

You can’t have one without the other, but you can have it all.

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