‘The Maze Runner’: A satisfying sci-fi ride

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Dylan O’Brien as Thomas in “The Maze Runner.” | 20th Century Fox

In an age when we are seeing quite a few pieces of young adult literature being turned into big screen films — usually chockablock with the latest examples of computer-generated technology driving the action — it was quite delightful to have watched “The Maze Runner,” a well-acted and intelligent thriller/futuristic sci-fi romp.

Sure, there’s plenty of CGI here, and they did a great job creating the truly frightening “Griever” monsters that make the creepy, drooling title star of “Alien” look tame by comparison.

It’s also clear that first time feature director Wes Ball’s art-director background was put to good use as he helped create the environment of the maze world our young actors are forced to live in.

But beyond the visuals, what makes “The Maze Runner” so compelling is its attention-grabbing storyline.

We start out meeting Dylan O’Brien’s character, suddenly propelled by a kind of industrial elevator mechanism into the “Glade,” what initially appears to be a grassy, rural environment — only populated by other young men. They all share the fact they have no memory of their earlier lives. All they know of themselves is their first names. Period.

What they do know is that the ominous maze that surrounds them is something that most of them should leave alone.

Only a handful of “maze runners” venture into the frightening concrete complex — fast and brave fellows who are attempting to map a possible escape route.

The problem: It’s impossible to get through to whatever is on the other side without facing certain death thanks to the stingers and insatiable hunger of the devouring Grievers.

Boosting thefilm is the fine acting delivered by the key players: O’Brien as Thomas, who refuses to simply accept his quandary and is constantly questioning, and Will Poulter, that goofy virgin in “We’re the Millers,” who is so different here as the cruel and angry Gally. Kudos too to young Blake Cooper, whose Chuck character will truly touch your heart.

Yes, there are strong touches here of the classic film “Lord of the Flies,” based on the William Golding novel, because there is that concept of young people creating a society out of nothing. However, “The Maze Runner” takes us on a much different ride — and it’s a very satisfying one.

[s3r star=3.5/4]

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Wes Ball and written by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin, based on the novel by James Dashner. Running time: 113 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images). Opens Friday at local theaters.

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