For whatever reason, our current creative media have a real lust for stories about dystopian and post-apocalyptic societies. Hopefully it's just a trend rather than something genuinely prophetic. One such dystopian sci-fi tale on the way in fall 2014 is The Maze Runner, the feature film debut from director Wes Ball, based on James Dashner's novel of the same name.
The Maze Runner is conceptually similar to Vincenzo Natali's 1997 sci-fi movie Cube. The protagonist, a teenage boy called Thomas (played by Teen Wolf's Dylan O'Brien), wakes up stripped of his memories in an enormous artificial compound populated by other teenagers. There is a living area ('the Glade') at the center and an enormous maze stretching out in every direction beyond it. In this social microcosm the strongest and smartest teens are 'runners,' whose job it is to map out the ever-shifting maze and try to find a way to free everyone from this strange prison. With the arrival of Thomas and the Glade's first female inmate, Teresa, the entire system threatens to come crumbling down around them and the pressure is on the solve the maze before it's too late.
The first trailer for The Maze Runner will premiere during tonight's episode of Teen Wolf, and Twentieth Century Fox has released a short preview, showing the very first scene of Thomas waking up in the elevator that takes him to the compound. Fox has also released a new poster for the movie, via MTV, showing two runners entering the terrifying maw of the maze. Did we mention that there are monsters in there?
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With The Hunger Games saga halfway complete, many studios are trying to find the perfect young adult novel adaptation to fill the niche previously held by titans like Harry Potter and Twilight. This week, for example, will see the release of Neil Burger's Divergent, based on Veronica Roth's novel, which already has two sequels in development with release dates lined up.
There are plenty of challenges in trying to create the next big young adult sci-fi or fantasy franchise; for starters, neither Divergent nor The Maze Runner have the same kind of massive readership that Harry Potter and The Hunger Games had before striking out on the big screen. The Maze Runner is a movie that will really have to sell itself on its own merits rather than relying on the existing fanbase to bolster the box office results. One smart approach would be to highlight the mystery at the center of the plot - who doesn't love a good mystery?
What it lacks in big name star power, The Maze Runner makes up for by having a talented collection of lesser-known actors in its cast. O'Brien is easily the strongest young actor on Teen Wolf, which is probably why his character has more or less taken over the latter half of the current season, and co-starring alongside him are Will Poulter (Son of Rambow), Kaya Scodelario (Skins) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones). Be sure to check out the full trailer to find out if The Maze Runner has what it takes to make it in the harsh arena of YA novel adaptations.
The Maze Runner arrives in theaters on September 19, 2014.