On September 19, the next attempt at turning a young adult book series into a popular movie series will take place as “The Maze Runner” will hit theaters for its first installment. You’ve probably already seen the trailer (but if you haven’t, I’ve added it right there for you, you’re welcome) but you may have some questions heading into the movie, such as should you see it?
Well, I’ve taken the time to read the entire Maze Runner series this summer so you didn’t have to, and I’m here to answer any questions you might have. I will do so in a hypothetical conversation I will have with one of you eager fans.
NOTE: I am not going to give away anything major from the books here in this post, but it’s impossible for me to get into any detail without giving SOME minor spoilers, so you’ve been warned if you want to go into this completely in the dark.
So “The Maze Runner” is based on a book or something?
Correct, the movies coming out are based on the series of the same name by author James Dashner. The first book was released in 2009, while the last came out in 2012.
How many books are in the series?
Four. There is a trilogy, followed by a prequel book dealing with a set of (mostly) unrelated characters but in the same universe.
So like, what is it about?
Good question, imaginary reader. It’s a bit hard to explain. Basically, the first book (which is the one the movie will be based off of) is about a teenage boy named Thomas, who awakens in a giant box inside of a mass of land with no memory of his previous life.
Once there, he finds that there is already a set of teenage boys living there, who have created a system of survival and have resources such as food being provided to them through the giant box, along with new members, each with no prior recollection of their past.
They are surrounded on all sides by a giant maze (hence the title) and have yet to find a way out of it despite looking for two years. Each boy in the “town” is assigned a job to keep up with the flow of life, and they have a strict set of rules they must follow in order to keep the peace. One of the jobs is a “runner” which is to go into the maze and try to find clues about a way out, which Thomas is drawn to and eventually becomes.
The boys don’t go into the maze at night, because it automatically closes, and becomes populated with machine like creatures called “grievers” that are extremely dangerous and can kill them.
So why, is there a giant maze?
Well that’s kind of the crux of the story, in the opening book and what they try to figure out. It won’t give THAT much away, but I’ll tell you right now if you want to hear it.
SO JUST TO BE CLEAR YOUR ABOUT TO GIVE A MINOR PLOT SPOILER?
It is eventually revealed that the group behind the kidnapping of the boys is a group called “WICKED” which are dealing out some type of experiment on the boys to find out information.
Information for what?
Well, I can’t give that away without giving out too many spoilers. Within the first ten chapters of book two, you get a pretty crystal clear idea of what is going on, but I won’t give that away here.
Basically, just know that it is much darker inside of the “Maze Runner” universe than it might appear. I will say this, the Maze and the town the boys live in is indeed a controlled environment and not connected to the outside universe. The people who kidnapped them are doing it for a reason that they believe is essential into saving the human race.
That’s as far as I’ll go since I’m not doing a full report here, it’s tempting to dive into more plot details about the next books, but I’ll hold off on that. If you REALLY wanna know you can ask me privately.
So do the people holding them there want them to escape?
Yes and no. Eventually the “creators” give them an ultimatum to get out by sending in the grievers more often and no longer sending them supplies. While they don’t give any clues away for the boys to use to get out of the maze, they don’t want everyone to die because they need them for research purposes which you find out more of as the series goes along.
The trailer makes a big deal out of a girl being released, why is that so important?
Because there has never been a girl inside the box before. Every month, at the same time, the “creators” release a new boy into the fray, except this time it was a girl.
Her name is Teresa and needless to say she is important to the plot, being the co-main character of the trilogy alongside Thomas. Thomas’s role becomes more important once she arrives because Teresa says his name when she comes out of the box, as you see in the trailer.
Did Thomas and Teresa know each other?
You’ll have to watch. I will say that they are more connected to what’s going on than any of the other “prisoners,” except they don’t know that because their memories have been erased.
A huge part of the first book is Thomas trying to figure out if he is connected to Teresa and to WICKED. Some of the other boys in the camp become suspicious of him as well.
So do they make it out of the maze?
Well you’ll just have to see the movie to find that out. Kinda nosey aren’t you?
Fine, I’ll stop asking for spoilers.
What about the tone? Is it similar to “The Hunger Games”?
Yes, sorta. It’s certainly just as dark. Once you find out the big reveal about the purpose of the maze, the story takes a pretty strange turn that you’re not expecting.
It might be a spoiler to say this, but Dufner isn’t afraid to kill off a character or two. It isn’t “Game of Thrones” here, but for a young adult novel, there is some serious bloodshed.
There are very violent and gruesome fight scenes as well throughout all four books. The grievers are pretty badass creatures, and Thomas and the gang have to fight them off. In the rest of the series there are other threats as well that cause some serious damage.
Unlike “The Hunger Games” Dufner only bothers a little bit with a love story. Make no mistake Thomas and Teresa have something going on, but that’s never the main focus, it’s more about him staying alive.
In the second book, their relationship takes a very unexpected twist, and a new love interest is brought in. Again though, this is only a minor side angle unlike in “The Hunger Games” when often times it felt more important than the main plot.
The characters aren’t terribly fleshed out either, (in the second book there is literally a hispanic character that says esse after every sentence) but Dufner has a little bit of breathing room with that since the book is so plot heavy. In the first book the main characters that you see in the trailer other than Thomas and Teresa, are all members of the town in which Thomas wakes up inside.
So tell me a little bit about them?
Well there is Minho, the leader of the runners (the asian boy in the trailer) Alby (the leader of the entire camp, the black guy in the trailer), Newt (Alby’s number two and Thomas’s closest friend throughout the series) and Chuck (the redhead) who is a younger member who befriends Thomas while others are reluctant.
In the trailer when Thomas is getting out of the box, someone calls him “greenie” what’s that all about?
The group inside the maze has their own language kind of. It’s basically English but they have changed a bunch of words around. Greenie is just what they call the newest member of the group. “Shuck” is the word they use for basically every swear word (a clever way for Dufner to swear in a kids book) “Gladers” is what they call themselves as a group, “Klunk” is poop “Slinthead” is an insult to a person, “Good that” is their way of saying okay, or sounds good, and there is a couple of others.
Why did they do that?
Uhh, I don’t really know. Dufner never really bothers to explain why they have their own made up slang. Yes, every member of the group has lost their memories, but they still know how to speak English, which makes it all that more confusing. It will be interesting to see how much they go with it in the movie version.
I’m a fast reader, would you recommend reading the book before seeing the movie?
If you can, yeah. I basically always have this philosophy unless it’s a movie you’re not that interested in seeing. The books are good, sometimes even great for the genre.
The first book is the best in the series once it picks up, and is a real page-turner. The chapters are short and you could easily bust through it in the three weeks you have before the movie.
If you’re into the first one, I would suggest definitely finishing the trilogy, but each book has a very unique style and different environment. You can probably skip “The Kill Order” (which is the prequel) since it forces you to learn entirely new characters, and has a weak plot.
If I don’t bother reading do you think the movie will do a good job telling the story and is worth seeing?
I would say yes. The trailer looks very promising, and it has a lot of things about it that translate well into movies.
It’s a very visual book series, you have the maze especially which will be a lot of fun to see on the big screen, as well as the grievers.
I don’t know much about the films director, Wes Ball. His IMDB page says this is the first feature length movie he has directed. An interesting choice to say the least, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
The film stars Dylan O’Brien who is close enough to what I imagined Thomas looking like. He is best known for the MTV series “Teen Wolf” so take that for what you will.
Teresa is played by Kaya Scodelario, who I’ve never heard of, but her acting credits include “Skins”, “Southcliffe” and “True Love.”
So it is closer to “Twilight” or “The Hunger Games”?
Definitely “The Hunger Games.” There’s a lot going on here, and it is a very good sci-fi story for its age group. Overall I would definitely recommend reading the books, or at least seeing it when it comes out in theaters, hopefully they don’t ruin it.