The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

On the need of transparency about cliff hanger endings

with 18 comments

maze runnerIn the marketing there’s nothing that indicates that The Maze Runner is anything else but a standalone movie.

The main movie theatre chain in Sweden gives it the following description on their website:

“Thomas wakes up locked into a gigantic labyrinth. He’s not alone and the only chance to get out alive is to collaborate and put together the clues they find, which appear to lead to an organization called “W.C.K.D”. The movie is directed by Wes Ball and based on the bestselling book by James Dashner.”

I had no idea what I was in for as I watched it, but I totally expected to get a full story. Imagine my surprise when it suddenly ended, without any conclusion or closure. We were almost as confused as we’d been throughout the movie about the purpose of the labyrinth and the greater picture of this world and its inhabitants, although at a slightly higher level.

We’re used to see this kind of cliff hangers in season finales of TV series. But when you go to see a movie you’ve got different expectations. You expect a movie to have a clear end, and if it doesn’t, you’ll know that on beforehand. The first Spiderman movie works perfectly well on its own. The first Hobbit movie doesn’t, but it was so clearly announced before that this was one book that would be made into three movies, that I don’t think that it can have escaped a single person in the audience. If you went to see it, you knew what you were up for: a three-part series. And yet – the first Hobbit movie is more of a finished story than The Maze Runner is.

Have they done this on purpose? Are they deliberately deceiving the audience, luring them into watching what they think is a movie, to then leave them hanging a third way into the story, so that they have to see the sequel to make any sense at all out of the first movie?

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that it’s more about sloppiness than calculation. They assumed that everyone already knew that this was yet another three-part adaptation of a young adult book series. But they were wrong. Everyone didn’t know.

The Maze Runner on its own is about as finished as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and they should be more transparent about it. A correct title of this film should be: “The Maze Runner: Part 1”.

Cliff hangers as such are acceptable in movies as in TV series. But we should be able to make an informed choice before throwing ourselves into an entire series of films.

Refreshingly free from love
After this little rant it’s time to say something about the movie. The Maze Runner operates in the same field as The Hunger Games and Divergent: young adult fiction about teenagers fighting to survive in a competitive environment in a dystopian world. I would describe it as a crossover between The Hunger Games and Cube, with a bit of a Lord of the Flies vibe.

Funny enough, considering how much I’ve complained about the lack of resolution, the movie is better the less we know about what’s going on. The initial mystery intrigued me; the hints about the explanation towards the end of the film not quite so.

What I also liked about the film is the look of it. It didn’t come as a surprise when I learned that the director has a solid background in the art direction department.

The characters are a little too many and a little too thin for me to keep them apart from each other. For some reason (not explained) there are only boys who are brought to the labyrinth. With one exception. Following the pattern from the previous franchises in this genre, I would have expected some kind of love drama to appear around this one girl. I was so happy when this didn’t happen. This film is refreshingly free from love triangles. (Apparently it deviates from the book in this aspect, so I’m not too hopeful that future installations in the series will remain love free).

All in all it’s a nice popcorn movie for all of us who think that The Hunger Games and Divergent are entertaining rather than terrible. A little bit on the thin side, a little bit forgettable, but thrilling enough to keep my attention throughout the film and perfectly ok within its genre.

The Maze Runner (Wes Ball, US 2014) My rating: 3,5/5

Written by Jessica

September 23, 2014 at 1:00 am

Posted in The Maze Runner

18 Responses

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  1. I haven’t seen the maze runner, but I had a similar experience with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In that case, I knew that it was the second of three book (which I hadn’t read) and the second of four movies, but it still felt like it just stopped without much logic to it.

    I think a good director, writer or producer should be able to get around this somehow. Even if the story is incomplete, they should still be able to leave us at a good “chapter break”, or the emotional sigh before the next big battle. And if they are going to leave us with a real cliff hanger, then they need to do it in a way that is exciting enough that we leave the theater cheering with anticipation, not looking around asking what just happened!


    September 23, 2014 at 2:37 am

    • i couldn’t agree more. In the case of The Hunger Games I knew whatI was up for, but in this case it was even worse since it came as a complete surprise to me: WHAT????


      September 23, 2014 at 9:52 pm

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more: I was left with a similar anger at the end of Back to the Future II — which, if you recall, is basically a dissolve from a story that’s in full flight to trailers for Back to the Future III. I had a smallish child with me who had to be consoled the whole way home because she felt swindled. And damn’ right too: she had been.


    September 23, 2014 at 3:17 am

    • Indeed. I think it should be possible to conclude a movie in a decent way, even when it’s a part of a series.


      September 23, 2014 at 9:53 pm

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  4. Didn’t know this either and had this happen to me when I watched Divergent. Didn’t know it was part of a franchise and want pleasantly surprised to see the end credits suddenly appear. It should be made clearer, with you on that!


    September 23, 2014 at 8:47 am

    • I saw Divergent too, but in that case I was vaguesly aware of that it was a book series, like The Hunger Games, so I didn’t feel as cheated as I did this time.


      September 23, 2014 at 9:54 pm

  5. […] The Maze Runner var en av de filmer under Malmö Filmdagar där vi fick skriva under varsitt Embargo Agreement eftersom vi fick ta del av dem innan de hade USA-premiär. Men nu har ridån gått upp, skuggorna belysts och vi är fria att säga vad vi vill. Jojjenito Har du inte sett den? Fripps filmrevyer The Velvet Café […]

  6. Nice review. I think I liked the film a little less than you. There were some really cool ideas in there. But I just found the writing and acting really let it down.

    I remember after seeing the first Lord of the Rings film, two of the people I saw it with were like, ‘what the hell happened, what did they do with the ring’. So no matter how famous the property, these unfinished stories will always affect some people’s experience.

    Beer Movie

    September 23, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    • Thanks. I think I just enjoyed the original concept so much that I became a little forgiving. I’m such a sucker for Cube! The writing and acting was a bit forgettable, I agree completely about that.


      September 23, 2014 at 9:57 pm

  7. Beware…beware…beware of the “Wannabe Franchise”

    Ryan McNeil

    September 23, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    • Oh yeah. I checked out if there was any guarantee that this actually will BE a franchise. It seems as if the next part is on its way now, so it’s probably more than just wannabe. But what if it flopps at the box office?


      September 23, 2014 at 9:55 pm

  8. But the thing is: you watched it realtively unspoiled in Malmö. I wonder if you had been equally unknowledgeable if it had started the movie theatre circuit?


    September 24, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    • I don’t know. I haven’t seen a lot of buzz around it in Swedish media. Perhaps it isn’t a big hit?


      September 28, 2014 at 9:45 pm

  9. To me, this film was so pointless. It just existed to set up a sequel that nobody will care about.


    September 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    • Hehe. I can see that. Again I was highly disppointed about the end. I guess I’d like to see the continuation. But the first half was really best before we got to know a bit more. And that doesn’t make me too hopeful about the sequel.


      September 28, 2014 at 9:46 pm

  10. Hello there, You have done a fantastic job. I’ll definitely diogg it and personally recommesnd to my friends.
    I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this web site.

    More info at Wikipedia

    October 3, 2014 at 8:45 am

  11. If you see the book collection there are three books plus the prequel. The maze runner is book 1 and book 2 is called scorch trials. The third, death w. I think these will be the second and third movies.


    October 25, 2014 at 8:16 pm

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