I don't mean to sound cynical about the movie-making business, but once in a while it almost feels like the genre films I'm watching are plugged into some kind of formula. In the opening twenty minutes of The Maze Runner, our hero Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) arrives in a grassy idyll called "The Glade," surrounded on all sides by a towering maze. Lacking a memory, he's filled in on the rules by nice boss-kid Alby (Aml Ameen). It's pretty simple: the Glade is filled with teenage boys, none of them remember anything but their names, and don't go into the maze. Why don't go into the maze? Well, it's filled with monsters, it seals itself up at night, and they get food and supplies with every new arrival every month. Why would you go in the maze?
Okay, some kids go in the maze. Like all of these young-adult sci-fi movies (this is based on a 2009 novel by James Dashner that was…wait for it…the first in a series) there's all kinds of lingo and logistics to learn. The kids who go in the maze are called Runners, and they dash about all day trying to map it out before the sun goes down. Don't get stung by any monsters, also! That makes you sick, and then you go through something called "The Changing" (read: you go crazy). Everyone else has a role: there's Builders, Healers, whatever else you can think of. I didn't notice any film critics, so hopefully I won't find myself emerging from a metal box into the Glade anytime soon.
After we spend the first act getting the lay of the land, Thomas immediately starts making trouble for no particularly good reason. He's just so eager to get into that maze! It probably says something about myself that my reaction to the plot of The Maze Runner was "Why leave the Glade? Got everything you need right there!" Thomas has to cause a ruckus, break the rules and start poking around in the maze to move the plot forward, but I was at least heartened that all of the other boys had decided just to stay put. Maybe I'm not a coward after all.