The Maze Runner is a 2014 American dystopian science fiction film directed by Wes Ball, in his directorial debut, based on James Dashner’s 2009 novel of the same name. The film is the first installment in The Maze Runner film series and was produced by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen, and Lee Stollman with a screenplay by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, and T.S. Nowlin. The film stars Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Will Poulter, and Patricia Clarkson. The story follows sixteen-year-old Thomas, portrayed by O’Brien, who awakens in a rusty elevator with no memory of who he is, only to learn he’s been delivered to the middle of an intricate maze, along with many other boys, who have been trying to find their way out of the ever-changing labyrinth — all while establishing a functioning society in what they call the Glade.
Development of The Maze Runner began in January 2011 when Fox purchased the film rights to Dashner’s novel with film studios Temple Hill Entertainment and TSG Entertainment. Principal photography began in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on May 13, 2013 and officially concluded on July 12, 2013.
The Maze Runner was released on September 19, 2014 in the United States by 20th Century Fox. Critics considered it to be better than most young adult book-to-film adaptations. The film topped the box-office during its opening weekend with a $32.5 million debut, making it the seventh-highest grossing debut in September. The film earned over $348 million worldwide at the box-office, against its budget of $34 million.
A sequel, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, was released on September 18, 2015 in the United States. A third and final film, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, was released on January 26, 2018.
A teenager wakes up inside an underground elevator with no memory of his identity. A group of male youths greet him in a large grassy area called the “Glade” enclosed by tall stone walls. The boys (“Gladers”) have formed a rudimentary society, with each assuming specialized tasks. Their leader, Alby, says that every boy eventually recalls his name but not his past. The boy learns that a vast Maze surrounding them is the only way out. During the day, designated Runners search the Maze for an escape route, returning before nightfall when the entrance closes. No one has ever survived a night in the Maze.
While in a competition with another boy named Gally, the boy suddenly remembers his name: Thomas. The next day, he is attacked by Ben, a Runner who has been stung and left delirious by a Griever – deadly techno-organic creatures that roam the Maze at night. Ben is forced into the Maze and left to die, as there is no cure for his condition. Alby and Minho, the lead Runner, later retrace Ben’s steps inside the Maze. Minho reappears at dusk dragging Alby, who is stung, but they are unable to reach the closing entrance in time. Thomas runs into the Maze to help, leaving all three trapped. Thomas lures a Griever into a closing passageway, causing it to be crushed. The trio manages to survive the night, returning the next morning.
The first-ever girl arrives in the elevator, with a note saying that she is the last one to enter the Glade. She recognizes Thomas, though he cannot remember her. Thomas, Minho, Frypan, Winston, and Zart enter the Maze, locate the Griever corpse, and remove a beeping mechanical device from inside it. Gally claims Thomas has jeopardized the fragile peace between the youths and the Grievers and wants him punished, but Newt, the group’s second-in-command, instead designates Thomas as a Runner. Minho shows Thomas a hand-constructed model of the Maze based on previous exploration. The Maze’s numbered sections open and close in a regular sequence. Thomas realizes that the device corresponds to a section within the Maze.
The girl, Teresa, has two syringes filled with an unknown substance. One is used on Alby, and he recovers from the Griever sting. Minho and Thomas venture back into the Maze with the device and discover a possible exit. A laser then scans the two, and the exit closes. Thomas and Minho start to run away as traps activated by lasers nearly kill them. That night, the Maze entrance does not close while others open, letting Grievers pour in. A massacre ensues as the Gladers struggle to fight back or hide. Alby, Zart, Clint, and several others are killed.
Afterwards, Gally punches Thomas and blames him for everything that happened. Thomas, who has been having disconnected memory flashes since arriving, stabs himself with a severed Griever stinger in an attempt to revive his memory. The others inject him with the last anti-venom. Unconscious, he recalls that he and Teresa worked for the organization that created the Maze, W.C.K.D.; the boys unknowingly have been test subjects for an experiment. Thomas awakens and shares this information with Newt, Minho, Chuck, and Teresa. Thomas then reveals himself and Teresa, confessing that they worked with W.C.K.D. and studied the boys for years.
Meanwhile, Gally has taken command and intends to sacrifice Thomas and Teresa to the Grievers to restore peace. However, several Gladers form a group and free them. They then approach the Maze in an attempt to find an escape, while Gally and a few others refuse to leave. Fighting Grievers as they go, Jeff and several other Gladers are killed. The Gladers eventually enter a laboratory strewn with corpses. In a video recording, a woman named Ava Paige explains that the planet has been devastated by a massive solar flare, followed by a pandemic of a deadly virus called the Flare. The teens learn that they were part of an experiment studying for a cure. Paige is seen shooting herself on the screen as the lab is attacked by armed men.
Gally suddenly appears with a gun. Having been stung by a Griever, he insists they must stay in the Maze and aims at Thomas, but is pierced through the chest by Minho’s spear, but not before Chuck is fatally shot. Masked armed men then rush in and take the rest of the group to a helicopter. It flies over a vast desert wasteland and approaches a ruined city. The scene ends with the supposedly-dead scientists meeting in a room. Paige notes that the experiment is successful; the survivors are now entering Phase Two.
- Dylan O’Brien as Thomas, the last male to enter the Glade
- Kaya Scodelario as Teresa, the first and only female Glader
- Aml Ameen as Alby, the first male to enter the Glade and the leader of the Gladers
- Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt, second-in-command of the Gladers
- Ki Hong Lee as Minho, the head runner
- Will Poulter as Gally
- Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige, the Head of W.C.K.D.
- Blake Cooper as Chuck, a very young Glader
- Dexter Darden as Frypan, a cook
- Jacob Latimore as Jeff
- Chris Sheffield as Ben, a runner
- Joe Adler as Zart
- Randall D. Cunningham as Clint
- Alexander Flores as Winston
- Don McManus as Masked Man, an armed soldier who rescues the Gladers
In an interview with Collider, director Wes Ball stated he had made a 3D computer-animated science fiction post-apocalyptic short film, titled Ruin, which he intended to use in order to gain access to Hollywood. He presented the short in 3D to 20th Century Fox. The studio initially considered a film adaptation of the short film, as it had the same tone of The Maze Runner novel they already planned to bring to the screen. Ball was then offered the chance to direct the novel adaptation. Creature designer Ken Barthelmey designed the monsters called Grievers for the film.
For the role of Teresa, Kaya Scodelario was Ball’s first choice as she was “fantastic” and because he loved her in the TV show Skins. Dylan O’Brien, the lead role, was initially rejected by Ball. Ball recounts, “Dylan was actually… I saw him early on, very early on and I overlooked him. It was a big learning experience there, because I overlooked him because of his hair. He had Teen Wolf hair and I couldn’t see past that and so we were looking for our Thomas and it’s a tough role to make, because he comes in as a boy and he leaves as a man, so it can’t be like this badass action star that comes into this movie. It’s about vulnerability up front and then he comes out of it and comes into his own and then the next movies are about the leader that emerges from the group. So finally Fox says ‘We just did this movie, The Internship. There’s this kid that’s in this thing. He’s like 20 years old. We think he’s kind of got something.’ So I watched his tape and was like ‘Wait a minute, I’ve seen this kid before.’ I looked him up online and there was one picture of him with a totally shaved head and it’s this sweet vulnerable looking kid and I was like ‘Whoa, interesting.’ I said, ‘Wait a minute, he’s just so familiar’ and I looked back at my old audition tapes, which we had thousands of, and there’s Dylan. That guy I said ‘No, definitely not him.’ So we brought him back in and we started to talk with him and I’m like ‘he’s the coolest dude ever.'” Blake Cooper entered the film via Twitter. Ball revealed a lot on Twitter, and many kids wanted to be Chuck. Cooper constantly bugged Ball, until Ball told him to give his tape to his casting director, and Ball was impressed by Cooper’s tape and cast him.
Principal photography started in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on May 13, 2013, and officially ended on July 12, 2013. Post-production on the film was completed in June 2014.
Composed by John Paesano, the soundtrack consists of 21 tracks and was released on September 16, 2014.
The film was originally set to be released on February 14, 2014. On October 5, 2013, the film was pushed back. IMAX theaters released the film on September 19, 2014.
Eleven character cards for the film were released in July 2013. Starting in January 2014, director Wes Ball released one image from the film once a week, leading up to the film’s first trailer release on March 17, 2014. A viral marketing campaign launched by 20th Century Fox began on April 16, 2014. The campaign is a website featuring the main characters while focusing on W.C.K.D, an organization in Dashner’s novel series of the same name. The website has the domain wckdisgood.com.
On June 26, 2014, Dylan O’Brien tweeted that the original The Maze Runner book would be re-released with a new book cover based on the film’s poster. On July 29, 2014, the second trailer for the film was released exclusively on Yahoo! Movies.
The popularity of the film has resulted in many fan projects, the most prominent being Maze Runner Chat, a podcast featuring news discussions and occasional cast interviews. The podcast is produced by MazeRunnerFans.com, a popular fan website for the series.
The film grossed $102,427,862 in North America and more than $245.8 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $348.3 million.
Prior to its release in the U.S. and Canada, box office analysts predicted the film would be a box office success, citing effective marketing, good word-of-mouth publicity and a solid release date. Preliminary reports predicted the film would open with takings of over $30–32 million in North America. According to movie ticket sale website Fandango, The Maze Runner was the biggest seller accounting for more than 50% of early tickets sales. The film was released on September 19, 2014 in the United States and Canada across 3,604 locations and over 350 IMAX theaters. It earned $1.1 million from Thursday night shows, and $11.25 million on its opening day. It topped the box office on its opening weekend with $32.5 million of which 9% of the gross came from IMAX theaters. Its opening weekend gross is the seventh-highest for a film released in September, and the 18th highest for a young-adult book adaptation. The film earned a total of $102,272,088 at the North American box office becoming the twenty sixth highest-grossing film of 2014 in the U.S. and Canada.
Outside North America, the film debuted in five countries a week prior to its North American release and earned a total of $8.3 million. The film had a similar success overseas during its wide opening second weekend earning $38 million from 7,547 screens in 51 markets. It opened in South Korea with $5.5 million which is higher than the openings of The Hunger Games and Divergent, the UK, Ireland and Malta with $3.4 million behind Gone Girl, and China with $14.58 million behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Other high openings were witnessed in Russia and the CIS ($5.75 million), France ($5.2 million), Australia ($3.4 million), Mexico ($2.6 million), Taiwan ($2.2 million) and Brazil ($2 million).
It became the third highest-grossing film of all time in Malaysia for Fox (behind Avatar and X-Men: Days of Future Past).
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes assigns the film a score of 65% based on 163 reviews, with an average rating of 5.9/10. The site’s consensus states: “With strong acting, a solid premise, and a refreshingly dark approach to its dystopian setting, The Maze Runner stands out from the crowded field of YA sci-fi adventures”. Metacritic gives the film a score of 57 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of “A-” on an A+ to F scale. According to Tim Ryan of The Wall Street Journal, critics considered the film better than most young adult book-to-film adaptations due to its “strong performances and a creepy, mysterious atmosphere”.
Rafer Guzman of Newsday gave the film a three out of four and described it as “solid, well crafted and entertaining”. Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com said she found the film intriguing, writing that “it tells us a story we think we’ve heard countless times before but with a refreshingly different tone and degree of detail”. The Seattle Times’s Soren Anderson said the film was “vastly superior to the book that inspired it” and gave it a score of 3/4. Tony Hicks of the San Jose Mercury News was “hooked by the combination of fine acting, intriguing premise and riveting scenery”. Matthew Toomey of ABC Radio Brisbane gave the film a grade of A−, giving praise to its intriguing premise saying that “it held [his] attention for its full two hour running time”. Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter said it was “consistently engaging”, and Ella Taylor of Variety wrote “as world-creation YA pictures go, The Maze Runner feels refreshingly low-tech and properly story-driven”.
Michael O’Sullivan of The Washington Post said “The Maze Runner unravels a few mysteries, but it spins even more”, giving it a 3/4. Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger wrote “it does leave you wanting to see the next installment. And that’s one special effect that very few YA movies ever pull off”. Isaac Feldberg of We Got This Covered awarded the film 8/10 stars, calling it “dark, dangerous and uncommonly thrilling”, while extolling it as “one of the most engaging YA adaptations to hit theaters in quite some time.” Rick Bentley of the Fresno Bee praised Wes Ball’s direction, saying that he “created balance between a thin but solid script and first-rate action – and he doesn’t waste a frame doing it”. Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times called it “a well-acted and intelligent thriller/futuristic sci-fi romp”. Bilge Ebiri of New York magazine said he “was quite riveted”. Michael Sragow of the Orange County Register gave it a grade of “B” and said, “Ball is deft, though, at evoking claustrophobia of every kind, whether in the open-air prison of the Glade or the actual tight spaces of the Maze. And he elicits a hair-trigger performance from O’Brien”
Claudia Puig of USA Today said “a sci-fi thriller set in a vaguely post-apocalyptic future must create a fully drawn universe to thoroughly captivate the viewer. But Maze Runner feels only partially formed”, giving it a score of 2/4. Time magazine’s Richard Corliss said “like Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit-tentialism, but more crowded and with the musk of bottled-up testosterone”. Wesley Morris of the website Grantland said “I think I have a touch of apocalepsy – excessive sleepiness caused by prolonged exposure to three and four-part series in which adolescents rebel against oppressive governments represented by esteemed actors”. Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film a 2.5 out of 4 rating and said “it’s bleak business, and as it hurries toward its explosive, expository conclusion, the film becomes nonsensical, too”. Film critic Ethan Gilsdorf of The Boston Globe said “teens should eat up this fantasy’s scenery-chewing angst and doom, and the hopeful tale of survival and empowerment (to be continued in the inevitable sequel or sequels)”.