The Bock’s Office: ‘Runner’ isn’t quite a-maze-ing |

The Bock’s Office: ‘Runner’ isn’t quite a-maze-ing

The residents of the Glade stare into the depths of the maze that surrounds their home in "The Maze Runner." The movie is about a group of young men mysteriously placed into a natural setting surrounded by a giant shifting maze.

Kids, whenever you think your parents are being unreasonable, consider the fact that they probably never forced you to live in the wilderness and question if your next day would be your last. Compared to the teens of "The Maze Runner," adolescents who have their cellphone taken away have it pretty easy.

Awakening suddenly in a freight elevator with no memory of his past or identity, a teenage boy (Dylan O'Brien) finds himself the newest resident of the Glade, an encampment inhabited entirely by boys his age. Eventually, his name, Thomas, comes to him, but more important questions remain, such as why this group has been left to fend for themselves in nature and who was responsible for placing them there.

The big one, however, is the curiosity regarding an insurmountable wall that surrounds the setting, its only opening closely guarded.

The structure is a maze, open by day and closed at night, and those who get stuck within have yet to be heard from again.

Thomas is warned by the leader of the Gladers, Alby (Aml Ameen), and his second-in-command, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), to stay clear of the maze and leave any exploration to the Runners, who examine it each day for a way to escape.

Circumstances dictate otherwise, however, as Thomas is forced to become a Runner himself and learn the secrets of the maze. And it appears whoever or whatever has put the boys in the Glade has some new developments in mind, including the introduction of a girl (Kaya Scodelario) who seems to know more about their situation than any of them.

Recommended Stories For You

O'Brien is an OK young lead considering what he has to work with here — let's be honest, only full-blown retrograde amnesia is harder to play convincingly than someone whose memory has been wiped.

Luckily, he has so many around him to give him the full explanation — or at least as much as they know — to give him and us the details for this little civilization as presided over by the experienced Alby and the thoughtful Newt.

As for the other parts of the gang, there's shrimpy Chuck (Blake Cooper), the last to enter the Glade before Thomas; fleet-footed Minho (Ki Hong Lee), the most familiar with the inner workings of the maze; and tough-talking Gally (Will Poulter), instantly suspicious of Thomas' presence and ready to take him out if he threatens what harmony there is in the Glade.

If you want to preserve order among adolescents, there's no better way than to let them sort it out because every generation needs its "Lord of the Flies", right?

Of course, slaying the wild pig would be far simpler than taking on what lurks in the labyrinth that terrifies our young heroes into submission. Known as Grievers, these unspeakables don't even have to be seen to inspire fear.

Actually, once the ambiguity is gone, there isn't much reason to be afraid, as Thomas learns, though the hard part is convincing everyone else, some of whom see the Glade as a prison and others as a refuge. And so, the debate rages whether they take risks for true freedom or just play it safe.

This adaptation of James Dashner's novel doesn't delve into the themes of free will and courage as well as it should, despite an introduction that gets us intrigued. The middle action isn't much either, but things pick up by the end with a conclusion that screams sequel, which may be just what this tale needs.

The characters are too bland, but if you look at the young adult genre, movie kids tend to become more remarkable as they get older. Well, it worked for Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, anyway, if not everyone.

"The Maze Runner" stumbles frequently, but it isn't without a meaningful narrative that could be more consequential and on a larger scale in follow-up. Let's see if the "The Scorch Trials" brings a second wind.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go

“The Maze Runner,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Running time: 113 minutes

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.