Frankly, I didn't know what to expect when I decided to go to this movie. I have seen that some of the people I follow for book reviews have read it, and it got mixed reviews. However, sometimes even bad books can be made into good movies or TV shows. Recently The 100 comes into mind. Not a very good book based on the reviews, but I'm hooked on the show. It probably also occurred to me, because it has similar themes. Teens trying to survive in a world they don't know much of after an apocalypse.
This movie is very action packed. Probably the book is a lot slower, but the movie is two hours even like this, so they really didn't need to put more in it. The pacing is good for the most part, however, the ending was a bit abrupt. As if they were shooting, looked at what they had, and realised that they spent too much time on the stuff so far, so they had to finish it already.
The story itself isn't typical current YA. Mercifully, no romance! There could be in the future, but not right now.
The beginning made me think of Lord of the Flies. I'm probably not alone in that. While there are moments when it could go that way, it doesn't. Perhaps the makers had enough faith in humanity to think that when a bunch of boys get together, they don't necessarily go for the "kill 'em all" scenario. Even though there are indications that there were more violent days, they could establish peace. However, I did wonder what it took. I know, that a strong leader was one of those things. Perhaps the book answers that question.
There aren't any movies this one specifically reminds me of. That could just be that other than superhero movies, I rarely watch stories with this level of testosterone. Or it could just be that most of it was really vague, and the answers weren't forthcoming. I could liken it to The Hunger Games. However, while it does happen in an enclosed space, there isn't that sense of Big Brother, since the boys don't know where they are, or why. It is obvious that someone is watching, and that some aspects of the environment are controlled, but not to that extent. The people trapped are also victims of some system, but it's not the overarching sense.
I even considered that like in another movie that I saw about a futuristic prison that people escape, only to find out that there is no one else out there, and everything was running on automation all along. This idea was actually reinforced by the look of the maze. It had a lot of rust and decay, more than 3 years of the alleged use of the place would indicate in my opinion. So while some details of the story are similar to some other stories I've seen, they only came into my mind afterwards.
The characters are a bit clichéd, but it could just be that the action was favoured instead of the character building. The action was really good, had my heart pounding at times, so I didn't mind.
Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) is the main character. It is his appearance that kick starts the changes in the camp. While this could be a flaw in the story, there are indications that this isn't a coincidence, and after a while that can become obvious. There were also some things about the events surrounding him that left me with questions. I hope they will be answered in the next movies. Though if I know myself, I won't stand it that long, and soon enough you will be seeing book reviews of this series, so watch this space. The actor himself was kind of an interesting choice. Dylan, of course, plays Stiles in the wildly popular Teen Wolf series, which I happen to watch as well. I do recommend it, because it's one of those shows that you have pegged as a light teen show on MTV, and then it surprises you by having a complex, and interesting mythology. So if you watch it like I do, Dylan plays a similar role here. He is the boy who acts, and isn't content to let the bigger, stronger boys lead him. He becomes a leader himself. Thomas' character takes the adventurous character of Stiles to a new level. He is the kind of guy that sees a mountain, and wants to know what's behind it. He also runs towards danger, so he's a kind of hero. I'm not sure if I actually like him, but I often agree with him.
Alby (Aml Ameen) is the leader in the camp. He is a good leader, though one of his decisions is strange, because he seems to usually delegate, but then he doesn't. That part felt a bit out of character, but could be better grounded in the book, or not there at all.
Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is Thomas' ally. They have a regular bromance from the start. It may come from Newt's generally relaxed nature, but they have a connection. The actor himself I've seen a few times, most obviously in The Game of Thrones. I always liked him, he even played one of my favourite side characters in Doctor Who. In this story his British accent felt weird. Everyone sounded American, and then he opened his mouth. I wonder if that was for the character, or an oversight, or he just had a hard time getting rid of it and they left it like that. In spite of this, I soon forgot about his accent, as he formed a really likeable character.
Gally (Will Poulter) is the evil guy. He is a bit of a cliché from the very start. The bully. The guy who never agrees with Thomas. The guy you just know will end up doing something horrible. He is also the opposite of Thomas in that if he sees a mountain, he just sees the peaks, and then looks around and feels content with what he has. In a way, like a lot of bullies, he's scared of change, of anything different from what he knows. I almost felt sorry for him.
The ending was kind of a surprise. Though frankly, I didn't know what to expect. In fact, the end brought up more questions than answers. Why I'm sure the series will be on many new reading lists, and sales will increase. People generally aren't that good at waiting for answers.
Overall, an exciting movie, and a baffling one. I kind of hoped to decide just how much I liked it in the course of writing this review. I'm still not sure, thus the 3 stars. I do recommend it though, if not for anything but the exciting action, and the interesting mystery. Don't expect to leave the theatre fully satisfied though. Frustrated would be more like it.