Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

12 November 2014

The Maze Runner

I was into The Maze Runner for most of its running time.

The moment it tries to explain why the maze exists, why whomever is in charge is actually murdering many, many children, this film totally goes off the rails and loses any semblance of credibility.

But none of that really mattered to me while watching. The movie is about a this cute young man (Dylan O'Brien) who runs really fast and doesn't listen to any of the garbage that his society feeds him. He does things his own way.

The trick of The Maze Runner is to create a series of metaphors for consciousness. The boys (a whole bunch of racially diverse but not linguistically diverse young men most of whom look to be about 21) all live in the middle of this maze and according to the rules of the boys' society, they don't really ask questions about this. They just "do their duty" or something (I wasn't really listening.)

Outside of where they live ("the grove", they call it) is a giant maze, with enormous cyborg spider-creatures. And there's also another way the maze can kill them – there's some kind of weird poison that the spider cyborgs sting them with, but there are other ways of administering this poison that I didn't fully understand, as well.

Into this maze throw a young, eager, white boy who wants to know what is beyond. He "doesn't want to live like this". He knows "there's more out there for us". He doesn't follow the rules. And he's also not afraid. In short, he is totally badass and he's gonna get them out of this maze.

How is his hair always coiffed?
Where does he get the product?
The grove inside of the maze is a metaphor, right? For our own culture and the way that we accept the norms and mores of our society. We should all be like the little maze runner, and do what we feel is right, bucking tradition and rejecting what we understand as our own level of consciousness in favor of feelings that we have about how society really ought to work.

The maze, of course, is rusty metal and stone and filled with cyborg spiders. There are all sorts of terrifying ways it could kill a young twentysomething. But once they all get out of the maze, we are told that it was all a test, a trick. Whoever is in charge – big government? scientists? – was just testing the young men.

This means there is A) more to come (sequel!) and B) all of this is a metaphor for yet another level of consciousness. The explanations this movie offers at the end are basically more dei ex machina. We aren't going to make sense of this movie for you viewers out there, but we will be sure to tell you that we haven't told you all of the things that we the filmmakers know. Come back for the sequel and we promise to tell you more things! As for this being a metaphor for yet another level of cultural conditioning, the maze runner breaks through one thing that he understands, rejecting the culture of the boys at the center of the maze, but then there is the culture outside the maze – the science and testing and whatever will happen in the sequel. So far even the maze runner seems to believe that this is "real". But he is a badass and a rebel, so I'm sure he'll figure out, like Michel Foucault, that there is no outside of biopower or, like Guy Debord, that this is all the spectacle.

I am being really sarcastic, I know, but this is a really bad movie.

Yet... it is not without its pleasures. The movie is good and scary at points, and all of the attractive young people are doing their best with the bad dialogue on their lips and the green screens behind them. It moves quickly, and it isn't too sentimental. It is also almost pure action – no pining away for younger sisters whom one has left behind, no falling in love, no sad parents. It's asinine, but I kinda liked it.