“The Maze Runner,” the latest young adult novel series to be adapted to the big screen, is an intriguing mystery that holds the audience’s interest for a while.
Then comes the payoff – or should I say, lack thereof.
All the promise comes crashing down in a final act that leaves more questions than answers and left me feeling gypped.
The premise is promising: Thomas (Dylan O’ Brien) wakes up in an elevator, unable to remember anything of his past. He emerges into a new society created from a group of boys who arrived in similar fashion.
Most members of the group have been there several years, with the only hope of escape a shape-shifting maze guarded by alien-like creatures called Grievers.
It’s all sort of a “Lord of the Flies” vibe, with Thomas the key to the maze’s secrets. As the secrets are revealed, “The Maze Runner” remains intriguing. The young actors are solid, and director Wes Ball adds a few well-staged action sequences.
Even the addition of a female character (Kaya Scodelario), whose sole purpose seems to be to give the story a female presence, has an element of intrigue.
But it all comes crashing down in the final 15 minutes, when instead of answering questions, the film’s story only becomes more murky.
I realize that “The Maze Runner” is based on a series of books and this is intended to be the first film, but the way this film ends feels like a total cheat.
It’s as if you are watching a television show with a season-ending cliffhanger, but the difference is you have to wait more than a year – 2016 at earliest.
The vague ending also makes “The Maze Runner” less of a complete film and more of a movie that feels like a two-hour trailer for “The Maze Runner 2.”
It’s a calculated risk, one that I’m not sure will be appreciated by viewers who haven’t read the books.
Also in theaters
A film that does a better job of trying to start a franchise from a series of novels is “A Walk Among the Tombstones” (B-), a gritty crime drama that gets a boost from Liam Neeson.
The 62-year-old actor has developed a nice little action résumé in films like “Taken” and “The Grey,” and he is in the same element here as Matt Scudder, a former cop turned unlicensed private eye.
Scudder is hired by a drug dealer to find the men who kidnapped his wife and killed her even though their financial demands were met.
He agrees to take the case and quickly discovers this isn’t an isolated incident, with this the latest in a series of killings and kidnappings that follow the same pattern.
Just when it looks as if he can’t solve the case, another abduction occurs – giving Scudder the chance to stop the series of crimes and perhaps save the latest victim’s life.
“A Walk Among the Tombstones” is based on a series of crime novels written by Lawrence Block. Scott Frank adapted the screenplay and also directed, creating an unsettling world that uncovers the seedy underbelly of the film’s New York setting.
Neeson is playing a character a lot like his role in “Taken,” but there is a bit more realism here. Scudder is a damaged man trying to change his ways, only to get involved in a dark world he is trying to escape.
The film isn’t an easy watch, with violence against women even more graphic than last week’s new release “No Good Deed.” This is just as hard to take, but it is grounded in a film that feels more authentic and less about manipulating its audience.
The final act does teeter on going over the top, but Neeson’s presence is enough to keep it from jumping the rails.
He’s really good here, playing a character I wouldn’t mind revisiting in another film.
“A Walk Among the Tombstones” is rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity and is playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.