Check out Josh and Violet’s spoiler-free male vs. female perspective reviews of The Maze Runner, directed by Wes Ball, and starring Dylan O’Brien! They also share their thoughts about the new Barco Escape experience.
His Movie Review of The Maze Runner:
So, first hearing about this movie at WonderCon I pretty much summed it up as, “Oh this is just another teen movie, greeat.” Take your pick, Twilight, or perhaps more similar to Hunger Games, but something I did not feel compelled to see. The movie in question is The Maze Runner. It did pretty well, making $35 million opening weekend, according to CNN, and already landed a sequel. The film was directed by Wes Ball, who seems to be fairly new, with nothing notable on his IMDB.
So deciding to mainly see this movie for the “BARCO Escape” (more on that later), Violet and I headed to LA, one of the few theaters showing it in this new format. Within the opening scene, I was drawn into the movie without hesitation.
The movie’s premise is the Greek story Labyrinth meets Lord of the Flies. Teenage boys are trapped within a “Glade” as they call it, surrounded by walls which lead into the maze. The boys have made a civilization for themselves, and none of them can remember who they are–with the exception of their name.
Thomas arrives as the newest “Greenie” (what new people are referred to as before their name comes back to them), and he seems to be a bit of a rebel, stirring things up. Meanwhile, everyone has their jobs, including a job called “Maze Runner,” which explores the maze–which changes every night.
While watching the movie, I could not help but be drawn into the mystery. Why are these boys here? What is the point of this maze? Are they prisoners? Are they being tested for something? Are they just guinea pigs? Is it all just a dream? If you get into the mystery, this movie is really compelling.
For the most part the acting was great as well. Thomas’ character is portrayed very well. He is played by Dylan O’Brien, probably best known for Teen Wolf. He is very good at flailing about, and playing the rebellious, curious type.
But this is certainly a lot better than the “other” teen movies that predate this one. There is no love triangle to sappy up the movie, which was a big relief for me when watching the movie. The drama in the movie feels “real,” and very believable but for a few scenes. And considering the budget of $30 million, the special effects were done really well.
The one suggestion I think I would have for the movie is that it could have used a little humor. There seemed to be a few attempts at joke cracking, but for the most part, the humor fell flat. I think humor is great for a serious movie though, as who wants to feel the heaviness of a bleak movie for two hours? Give us a little light-heartedness to liven things up!
But this is a very minor complaint. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the film overall, and with the announcement of the sequel, I might actually pick up the book and read through it, so I can see where the story is going.
Overall, I think the movie deserves a 7 out of 10. It wasn’t on par with any of the comic book movies I am a sucker for, nor quite as good as Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but depending on where the story goes from here, it could get very interesting. My intrigue meter is on high alert, waiting for this next movie to come out!
So what is this “BARCO Escape”?
Violet discovered that five theaters in the US were going to start this BARCO Escape theater experience. When we got to the theater, just before the movie started, a video came on explaining it to us. Basically some screens were put to the left and right of the main screen–along the walls coming towards us movie viewers. The person in the video explains that select scenes (7 minutes worth–a few minutes in the beginning and a few in the middle) would utilize these screens, providing a more immersive theater experience.
So the movie starts, and the scene is of Thomas entering “The Glade” in a metal box. The side screens show the other sides of the box, scrolling with the main screen, attempting to mimic the audience being in the box with Thomas.
This first scene worked pretty well. I think it did help me get immersed quickly, at least initially. After about 30 seconds though, I realized that the images on the side screens were fairly low resolution. Additionally, it was just CGI “footage”. Nothing was actually filmed there. At that point it became a distraction.
In the middle of the movie, when the side screens were used again, it was actually much more distraction, as the low resolution, and obvious CGI look became more distracting.
So, all in all, as the person on the video explained, this is a very early attempt at this, and if directors begin to utilize this more without just making this an afterthought, it could be interesting. The one thing that could be a drawback for it though, is seating. Violet and I had pretty good seating options, but someone being too close to the front, or too close to the sides, might have a lot of problems with it.
But hopefully we get more movies trying this out. It certainly was a fun experiment, although if it does catch on, I am sure it will be another thing we have to pay for at the theater!
Her Movie Review of The Maze Runner:
This past weekend Josh and I went up to LA to see The Maze Runner, directed by Wes Ball as his debut big screen feature, and starring Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf, The Internship), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Love Actually, Game of Thrones), and Will Poulter (We’re the Millers).
Why would we go all the way up to LA to see it when there are perfectly good movie theaters in Orange County? Because the Cinemark theater at the Howard Hughes Center in Los Angeles was one of only 5 theaters in the nation that were showing the film in Barco Escape. What’s Barco Escape, you ask? Well, it’s this new movie format which shows the movie on three screens instead of one, so that the movie is not only in front of you, but on both sides of you as well. The Maze Runner is the first film to use this new feature, and we are lucky enough to live relatively near to one of the few select theaters using Barco Escape, so we decided to take the opportunity to be one of the first to check it out.
First, I’ll talk about the movie itself. The film The Maze Runner is based on the YA (young adult) novel by James Dashner, the first book of a trilogy. If you’ve read our other reviews, you’ll know that I love to read, and that I usually read the book upon which a movie is based before I see the movie, and that I like to compare the two. This is one of the rare cases where I did not read the book. Sure, I had plenty of time to, considering I had been hearing about this movie ever since attending the panels at Wondercon, back in April, and at San Diego Comic-Con, in July. To tell you the truth, though, neither of those panels made me particularly excited to see the movie. I even wrote about how the 20th Century Fox panel, of which The Maze Runner was a part, was my most disappointing panel at Comic-Con. I wasn’t even really sure I cared much about seeing the movie, and it was really only the Barco Escape feature that tipped the scales to make us go see it.
Anyway, so The Maze Runner focuses on O’Brien’s character, Thomas, who wakes up and finds himself underground in a cage being transported up to the Glade, a grassy and wooded area that is surrounded by an enormous maze. There are several other teenage boys there, none of whom, including Thomas, can remember anything about themselves, aside from their own name. The boys have set up their own self-governing society, and none of them knows why they’re there, or how to get out. Each day, the boys have runners who run through the maze, mapping it, looking for a way out. But they make sure they come back to the Glade before nightfall, otherwise they’ll get trapped inside with the deadly monsters they call “grievers,” and will be dead by morning. However, when Thomas arrives, he questions things and goes against the rules that have been established – and big changes begin to occur that the boys in the Glade never expected.
Considering how uninterested I was in the movie to begin with, even having seen exclusive clips ahead of time, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Maze Runner, and how good it was! I was definitely not expecting to like it as much as I did. Throughout the entire movie, I was engaged in what was happening, and was always wondering and trying to figure out just what was going on. The kids were actually all pretty good actors, and I was especially impressed by Dylan O’Brien. I haven’t gotten around to watching Teen Wolf yet, so I wasn’t familiar with his work going into this movie, but I must say, he is one talented actor! Emotions were across the board for his character, and he absolutely nailed the performance.
Sure, there are a few plot holes, and a couple of weird cuts that suddenly go from one scene to another when it felt like there should have been more of a transition, but overall, the story flowed well, the special effects were quite good, and I never would have guessed that this was a relatively low budget film with a fledgling director. The end was my favorite part, because while it was somewhat satisfying, it also left me wanting more, as it had a very interesting twist that I never saw coming. When the movie ended, I had two thoughts: “Wow, that was actually really good!” and “Oh my gosh, I have to read the books!” — because, yeah, I need to know what happens next.
As for the Barco Escape aspect, the extra screens were only used in two parts of the movie: once at the very beginning, as Thomas is being brought up in the cage, and the other was somewhere in the middle, as Thomas and another boy are running through the maze. It was probably only a grand total of less than 10 minutes that the additional screens were on. I felt like it was a little distracting, because I kept wanting to look at the other two screens, even though there was nothing really worth looking at on them. They’re just for your peripheral vision really, to make you feel more immersed in the experience.
Once you get past the initial distraction, it’s kind of a cool effect. In the maze running scene though, there were times when the characters would run all the way to the right of the main screen, which logically would mean that they should be showing up on the left edge of the screen to your right, but that didn’t happen, so it looked odd. It was also plainly obvious that the picture quality of the scenes shown on the extra screens was very subpar to that of the picture quality on the main screen. So those two things made the experience a little disappointing and took me out of the immersive experience a bit. But, this is a new technology, and new tech always has its bugs. I think this could be a pretty neat feature to add to more movies in the future, once the creators develop it some more, and work out the flaws.
My Rating: 7.5/10