On the need of transparency about cliff hanger endings
In 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