Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Maze Runner

Let me start this with a warning for spoilers as this movie will only be released in the West on the 19th September. I am quite lucky to be somewhere where the movie opens on 11 September. But wait... 11 September is tomorrow. How could I be writing a review today on the 10th? Aha! I actually watched it yesterday.

To celebrate its 7th birthday, Golden Village (GV) held an event called The Maze Runner Great Escape. On top of early screening of the movie, participants get to enjoy pre-screening activities/games, hot snacks, drinks, instant photography session, GV goodie bag, and complementary movie pass for the upcoming Book of Life. All of these just for $25 which is reasonable considering a movie ticket cost $8.50 on a weekday.

I have never participated in this kind of "premiere" event so I was quite curious to attend this since I am also quite curious to watch the movie thanks to the trailers played before X-Men and Guardian of the Galaxy earlier this year. I was expecting merchandises related to the movie from the goodie bag and the games/activity. Alas, it was disappointing as all the freebies were rather rubbish. The first station dubbed the "Fear Factor" which was basically an instant lucky dip with crappy prizes of either a canned food or a free digital copy of 8days magazine -_-. The second station called "Break the Maze", I was supposed to solve a paper maze with a prize of Soy Energy Bar. Totally what the crap.. The food was 5 pieces of chicken nuggets and more pieces of potato wedges and they did not taste like nuggets or potatoes. The drink was canned drinks called ok ok which despite having a huge colourful banner of 10+ flavours, there were only 4 flavours available. The instant photography was also rubbish as it was taken with a handphone and the main purpose was for publicity as we have to tag and post it on instagram or something. I was expecting something cool to keep as a memento of this event. The ultimate bummer was the goodie bag which only contains GV popcorn-shaped small pillow and GV popcorn container. So basically NOTHING related to the movie merchandise as what I expected.

The learning point is that if you want to for this kind of thing, to make it worthwhile, you have to join the stupid game onstage. Then you can win things like movie poster, more free movie passes, etc. Anyway it was a rather bullshit event. Despite the movie was full house, 90% was disengaged from the activity. Just before the end of the pre-event, participants were asked to go on stage to take a photo with Mr Popcorn, who is basically GV mascot, to celebrate the 7th birthday and only like 20 people were willing to take picture together.

Moving on to the movie itself now and I am writing from a movie-watcher perspective entirely as I have not read the book yet. The story is quite intense: in a dystopian future, young boys (1 boy per month) are mind wiped, abducted and sent to a place called the Glade which is surrounded by giant maze. The only way out seems to be through the maze but the maze is inhabited by creatures called by the Grievers who roam at night. The maze entrance will close at night to prevent these creatures from entering the Glade. The boys (they call themselves the Gladers) have their own tasks to sustain the community and a group of them called the Runners have to enter the maze every morning to map out the maze in order to find an exit. They have to return before the maze closes in the evening and nobody has ever survived a night inside the maze, presumably killed by the Grievers.

Things start to change with arrival of the main character, Thomas, who basically speeds up the whole story in a ridiculous pace. It was revealed that the other boys have been trying to map the maze for 3 years and have not been able to find any progress towards the exit. After Thomas arrival, the maze is solved and we reach the ending of the movie in like 3 days?? What the??

While the overall theme sounds engaging, how the story progresses does not quite make sense. One day, Minho and Alby enter the maze. Alby gets stung by the Grievers and Minho has to carry him. Because of that, they are unable exit the maze before the end of the day. As the maze is closing, Thomas decides to enter the maze. You will be asking "For what??". He just arrived so what he could do in that situation? Bleah.. Because of Thomas, the 3 survive the night in the maze and even manage to kill a Griever.

Then a girl called Teresa was sent to the Glade which causes a big ruckus as no girls has been sent to the Glade before. She holds a note saying that she would be the last one sent ever. Thomas suggests to re-enter the maze to analyse the dead Griever to get some clues. With a canister obtained from the Griever's body, he somehow manages to find the "exit". For no reason, after this discovery, the maze no longer closes at night and the Grievers attack the Glade. Not knowing what to do, Thomas decides to stab himself with one of the Griever's metal parts as getting stung by a Griever seem to initiate the process called the Changing which somehow brings back the memories before one was abducted and sent to the Glade. Again this move does not seem to make sense because people don't seem survive the Changing process. How is Thomas sure that we won't die by stabbing himself? Bleah..

As the main character, he survives the Changing and he reveals that both Teresa and him are actually employees of the company who sent the guys to the Glade. He has no idea why the 2 of them eventually got sent too. Realising that there is something out there, the climax is when they all decide to re-enter the maze and get through the "exit" somehow. The ending is a cliffhanger and despite exiting the maze, the survivors still don't know what is going on.

I think there is a lot of potential with the story but eventually there are too many plot holes and unanswered questions. They have so many Gladers and yet only 5 or 6 play prominent roles. I feel that they can make a better story with utilising more characters. In addition, because there are too many people in the crowd, I can't really be bothered when some unknown got killed by the Grievers. It takes away some of the potentially more heart-wrenching part. As the only girl, I expect Teresa to play a special role to solve the maze. Well, she does not so I have no idea why her character is even introduced into the whole plot in the first place. By the way, no romance or love stories to warrant her presence too.

Nonetheless, the action scenes are quite intense and enjoyable too. As the title suggests, there are plenty of running and the running and shouting are quite believable too. The lack of make up seems to help too. All the pores and imperfection on the actors' faces are pretty obvious which is quite sensical because you can't possibly be looking pretty and perfect when living under such harsh environment. And by the way, I think Kaya Scodelario (who plays Teresa) really resembles Kristen Stewart (Bella from Twilight series).

If I have to rate it somehow, I think that this is just a so-so movie. Perhaps 3 out of 5 stars. Yet, one thing which I find very interesting is how the whole setup resembles our real lives even though we are not living in a dystopia. You stay and you remain in the shit place. You escape and you are simply thrown to the next shit in life. So yeah, our life is like The Maze Runner indeed.

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