Rise and shine, Greenies! "The Maze Runner" hits theaters this weekend, and it's a doozy. Director Wes Ball's new sci-fi thriller stars Dylan O'Brien as Thomas, an amnesiac kid who wakes up in an open field called The Glade, surrounded by a few dozen other kids who arrived earlier under the same circumstances. They don't know why they're there, and they can't escape, except through a giant, seemingly unsolvable maze that surrounds The Glade — and setting foot inside could be the last mistake anyone ever makes.
It's a thrilling ride with strong performances and an even stronger world. Here's why you ought to check out "Maze Runner" as soon as it comes out.
1. It Hits The Ground Running
There's no dilly-dallying, no time to waste. Another movie might spend 15 minutes before getting to the Glade and the maze. Not "Maze Runner." It begins with Thomas' anxious arrival, thrusting both the character and the viewer into an unknown world. Everyone's on the same page right away. It's a great start that trims all the fat and gets straight to the heart of the matter.
2. Behold The Glade
The massive open field where much of the movie takes place is a wonder to behold. Shot in Louisiana, the sheer scope of "The Maze Runner's" Glade establishes an awe-inspiring setting, but its size also serves as a reminder of how small the Gladers' world really is. Yes, it's an expansive field, but it's all these people know — aside from the dangerous maze surrounding their idyllic society, that is.
3. Behold The Maze
It's the setting of the title, and it does not disappoint. Almost a living, breathing organism, the maze shifts and changes throughout the film, preventing the Gladers from finding a way out. It's a deadly beast, one that calls the unpredictable danger of the "Hunger Games" arenas to mind, if not quite as elaborate.
4. Behold The Mystery
How did Thomas get to the Glade? What's the purpose of the maze? Why these children? Are they being tested? Punished? Where did they come from? As much as "Maze Runner" establishes its world early on, there are just as many questions that unfold throughout the film, grabbing your attention immediately and never letting go.
5. See Thomas Run
Asking those pressing questions, time and time again, is Thomas, the defiant and headstrong main character. "I don't know if he's brave or stupid," one of Thomas' fellow Gladers says of him at one point in the film. It's a fair question! Either way, he's compelling. It's a strong leading man debut for Dylan O'Brien, best known until now for his work on "Teen Wolf." It won't be the last time we see O'Brien taking center stage.
6. The Support Team
Beyond Thomas, there are plenty of other Gladers to fall in love with. "Game of Thrones" veteran Thomas Brodie-Sangster's Newt is the moral compass of the Glade, thoughtful in his decision making and sizing up of "Greenie" Thomas. As Chuck, newcomer Blake Cooper provides the heart of the film, a character that fans of James Dashner's novels have high expectations for. Ki Hong Lee as Minho, and Kaya Scodelario as Teresa, are great as well, as two of Thomas' closest allies.
7. If You Like "The Hunger Games" …
... or "Lord of the Flies," "Lost," "Survivor" and "Aliens," you'll probably like "The Maze Runner." The adaptation has shades of all those films, TV shows and stories, and then some, cobbled together to create its own distinct identity. There are things that don't work (the closing twist is divisive, to say the least), but the misfires are outweighed by how much the movie gets right. It's fun and provocative, and well worth your time.
"The Maze Runner" sprints into theaters this weekend.