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Page to Screen: The Maze Runner

Updated on July 21, 2015

Movie Poster


The Film

Released in 2014, this cinematic adaptation was directed by Wes Ball. To be fair, it's largely faithful to its source material and takes few risks. The biggest changes stick more to focusing on the source story's strengths and downplaying its weaker points. It earned a solid revenue both in North America and overseas and was largely well received.

It stars Dylan O'Brien (who previously worked with the Director on The Internship), Kaya Scodelario (had a small role in the Clash of the Titans), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (known from Game of Thrones), Will Poulter (We're the Millers), and numerous others.

The Book

Published in 2009, The Maze Runner successfully rode the ever popular wave of young adult novels. Written by James Dashner, this book has two published sequels and one prequel, with another set to be published in 2016.

The plot largely surrounds boys in the center of a maze who regularly get provisions. The boys don't remember who they are, where they come from, or why they're in this maze. In addition, the maze is filled with monsters and with walls that constantly move. The novel is full of mysterious that serves as the main driving force behind the story.

Book Cover


The Adaptation

Adults Cast as Teenagers
Well, this is a bit of a pet peeve. Practically every actor in this film is over the age of 20 and it's not well hidden. Specifically, many of the extras standing in the background are noticeably old, some looking more like they're in their 30's. If you haven't noticed this and you watch it again, you'll see it.

Lack of Telepathy
In the book, Thomas and Theresa possess a telepathic connection to one another. In the film, they do not. As a stand alone work, no answer is given for this phenomena, so it's understood that this was omitted from the film, as there are so many other questions that aren't really explained by the end anyway.

The Cliff
There really isn't a cliff in the film at all, despite it having a moderate amount of significance in the book. It's used as a threat to push people off, it's where the invisible 'Griever holes' are located, and it's used as the first way to 'defeat' attacking Grievers during Thomas's first night in the maze. While fairly important in the book, its omission was easily forgotten in the overall story.

There's a decent amount of change with this character in the adaptation process. In both versions, he gets stung, survives a night in the maze with Thomas's help, goes through the Changing, recovers, and is eventually killed by Grievers. However the timing of his death is very different, as in the book he makes himself a suicidal charge against the Grievers during their attempt to get through the Cliff to the Griever hole. In the film, he's among the first to be taken by the Grievers when everything starts to end.

Also noteworthy, although this is more of a personal opinion, Albi is far more respectable in the film than in the book. Albi is constantly belittling Thomas in the book and gets much worse after the Changing, demonstrating himself to be a bad leader and his suicide charge is debatable as heroic or simply suicidal. In the film, he seems to be looking out for everyone's best interest and is at worst, skeptical of Thomas after the little screen time he gets after the Changing.

Played by Will Poulter, Galley is a good deal more physically intimidating in the film than he's referred to in the book. Both versions paint the picture of a bully but Thomas constantly regards Galley as smaller than himself and belittles him in his mind. Will Poulter's appearance makes him more formidable (which is a stark contrast to the casting of Lord Humperdink in The Princess Bride compared to the burly hunter described in the book).

There's also a subtle distinction to Galley's death. In the book, it's fairly evident (even though the Gladers don't seem to get it) that Galley is under a form of persuasion or mind control, similar to how Albi isn't able to discuss what he saw in the Changing. This is what forces him to try to kill Thomas by throwing a knife. In the film, it looks more like Galley has a sort of mental breakdown, thinking they can't escape the maze (although he's technically already out) and pulls out a gun and fires.

Not a big difference, but the film gives the impression of found footage while all of the scientists are dead. In the book, the scientists are present and are shot by the 'rescuers,' only for the epilogue to tell you that this is what W.I.C.K.E.D. was planning all along.

Movie Trailer

Closing Thoughts

Intrigued by the premise and look from the trailers, I saw the film before I read the book. I greatly enjoyed the fast-pacing and mysterious nature to literally every part of the film and trying to figure out its mysteries as the movie played out . That being said, when I came to the book, I faced the same mysteries with my questions already answered , so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt (also, The Maze Runner is the only entry I've experienced in the series).

I thoroughly disliked the book. Some young adult works I can get behind (mostly the Hunger Game series) but reading through the writing style of this work is drudgery. The narrator is obsessed with letting you know how everyone feels constantly; in all honesty, if the author chose to let the reader fill in the blanks like he's supposed to, the book would be 1/3 of its original size. Characters are base and lacking charisma and most are easily unlikable. Often times characters react childishly (even if they are supposed to be teenagers, this is not an acceptable way of drawing the reader's interest) and their unwillingness to help Thomas learn anything for the first half of the book is mind-numbingly frustrating, in a bad way, and many fo the characters appear to be jerks for no apparent reason (even those who never went through the 'changing').

That being said, the presentation of The Maze Runner in cinematic form is one of the best. It gives enough questions to keep the reader firmly interested and continues to shuffle through the story at a quick pace, making the story itself more important than the characters (which is good considering they don't have that much depth over all). The adaptation focuses on its greatest strength and makes sure everything else is tucked away neatly in its shade. It kinda sounds a bit of a diss on the source material (don't worry, it is), but in this perspective, it makes this adaptation one of the best I've experienced.

I will note that a lot of material that is lacking in the novel continues to be lacking in the film. When you have a large gathering of males, specifically ones raging with hormones, and you introduce one female, you're going to realistically have a lot of sexual tension and not necessarily the 'healthy' kind (of course, it's a YA work, so that's not fitting but it's on every audience member's mind regardless). Characters continue to be fairly one dimensional as well and Chuck is more of poor man's Chunk from The Goonies but used as the cliché dead character used to incite the main protagonist (like Rue in the Hunger Games or Tris's mother in Divergence). However, Chuck is far less annoying in the film than he is in the book, but in either material I didn't have any kind of emotional connection to the character, meaning I really didn't care when he died. Also, there's still too much of the ever annoying slang that the characters seem so fond of.

Bottom line: Not a good novel but it wins the award of Most Improved as a Cinematic Adaptation in my book.

Book vs. Movie

For those of you who read the book and watched the movie, what did you prefer?

See results

Further Reading

You can read more Page to Screen adaptations if you click here.


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