3 Stars – Thought-Provoking
When William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies in 1954, he proposed that boys marooned on an isolated island due to a nuclear war would create a hellish society simply because they were not properly supervised and civilized by the larger world. Taking a different tack and placing another set of boys into a futuristic setting, Wes Ball’s The Maze Runner is not nearly as pessimistic. In his world the young men create a law-based society with clear hierarchical authority that is supported and reinforced by the group. But this time it is some unknown higher power that has forced them into a beautiful glade surrounded by a dangerous maze.
Based a trilogy of novels by James Dashner with the second book already in production, the central character in the tale is a young man named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien). Like the others before him, Thomas’ memory of his own identity has been wiped clean, however he can remember language. Being lifted into the glade by a metal elevator that includes a box of supplies, he joins a tribe of young men who have been living there for about three years. Having created a stable community with clear laws, the leader of the group is Alby (Aml Ameen) and his second in command is Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster). The enforcer of the laws is Gally (Will Poulter), a boy who truly believes these laws are necessary and will sacrifice anything and anyone to keep them..
This belief in the power of law to save society against the evils that surround them is one of the interesting moral dilemmas presented in the film. Known as stage four in Kohlberg’s moral development theory, Gally is now introduced to a person who lives at stage five and perhaps even six. This advanced moral reasoning Gally experiences as dangerous. Thomas seeks not to follow the rules but to do what is best for the entire tribe in rescuing them, which is stage five, and demonstrates stage six reasoning when he attempts to protect the most vulnerable member of the group, a younger boy named Chuck (Blake Cooper). It is this struggle for leadership and moral decision making that seems to be the next stage in the development of their small society.
Into this tribe the final newcomer is the first and only girl to join them, and what complicates Theresa’s (Kaya Scodelario) arrival is that she seems to know Thomas. Although the story does not play with the jealousy that one female in a tribe of men could have produced, the tale does explore how her arrival further heightens the tension as suspicion, with new alliances and trust networks emerging.
As a Sci-fi action film, the required danger is as complex and compelling as is the plot. We won’t spoil any of the action but encourage you to explore the maze of issues, relationships and primal fears the film presents.
Discussion for those who have seen the film:
- The assumption of virtually all sci-fi films is that in our collective future we will experience great calamity. The cause in this story is not man-made but the human response to the catastrophe still seems to lack faith in basic humanity. Do you have hope that humans can respond to the dangers of our future with courage, compassion and love? Why or why not?
- Why do you think those who created the maze included cyborg spiders? What was their purpose?
- If you were placed in this story, what position would you most likely represent?