First Look: The Maze Runner

For those of you who don’t know, The Maze Runner is the first book in a trilogy by author James Dashner. It follows the story of a boy named Thomas, who wakes up without any memories in an  elevator that takes him to a large expanse known as the Glades, which is surrounded by a giant maze that opens its walls during the day and closes up at night. The Glades is also home to a group of boys who tell Thomas that every thirty days a new member, a new boy, joins their group. That is, until the very next day, when a girl is sent up in the elevator with a message for Thomas, one which could help him figure out the key to the maze and their new life. 

I haven’t had the chance to read The Maze Runner, but I have read its Wikipedia page enough times to know that this is the kind of story that I would actually like to read, even if I already know what happens in the novel…and its sequels. I am into YA adaptations (don’t be judge-y, I like other genres too), which is why this film has been on my radar for a couple of months. I’ve sort of been following the film adaptation’s production, especially once I heard that Kaya Scodelario was cast in the film. Like many others, I’ve been a huge fan of Scodeario since her work as Effy Stonem on the UK teen drama Skins. I hope that this film will help her break into the North American market quicker.

The teaser trailer for The Maze Runner debuted last night during a new episode of Teen Wolf, which stars Dylan O’Brien who also plays Thomas in this film. Given that I have not actually read any of the books, I don’t really have any expectations for the film. That being said, I did like the trailer. Here are a few of my reactions to some of the moments in the trailer:

“Oh hey, it’s that guy from We Are The Millers! He’s helpful.”

“This is a training facility for Spider-Man.”

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“Oh hey, it’s Jojen Reed! He knows what he’s talking about.”

“Oh hey, it’s Effy and now she’s speaking with an American accent. Where’s the eyeliner?”

“But where is the Triwizard Cup?”

“Ooo, a sci-fi-y thing with Marmite all over it.”

“No Jojen!!!! I thought I could trust you!!! You took me beyond the wall to the North!” “…Also, this is getting violent.”

It will be interesting to see whether or not 20th Century Fox will be able to crack male audiences, which has been a major challenge for most YA adaptations, particularly in the post-Potter era. They’ve got Wyck Godfrey as one of the producers on this film, but I’m not sure if his involvement will hinder or help the execution of the plot line. Godfrey also produced the Twilight series which, as we all know, was incredibly successful at the box office and Eragon, which was, erm, not quite as well-received. It’s also going to be really difficult to convince audiences to be interested in yet another teen dystopian-esque story, and you can’t really shy away from this aspect of the storyline. Even though the premise of this story is presented in the trailer in such a way that will automatically draw comparisons to The Hunger Games and as of this week, Divergent, I really liked that they played up the action and allude to a Lord of the Flies type of scenario. I’ve read quite a few positive reactions to these elements in the trailer, which is good to see. I’ll be keeping an eye on future promotional materials and yes, will probably read the book(s) at some point before it releases on September 19th.

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This Soundtrack is Divergent.

Divergent is the first in a young adult trilogy by Chicago-based author Veronica Roth which has been adapted for the big screen. The film stars Shailene Woodley as Beatrice Prior, a girl living in a dystopian Chicago where society is divided up into five separate factions based on personality traits. Beatrice discovers that she is divergent and does not fit into just one faction, a secret which may have deadly consequences for not just herself, but the entire system that rules their society. The film also stars Theo James, Kate Winslet, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Mekhi Phifer and Jai Courtney. Divergent will be out in theatres on March 21st, 2014 in North America. 

The phrase ‘All that is gold does not glitter’ comes to mind when tuning into the Divergent soundtrack. High-profiled artists like A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Skrillex, M83, Zedd and Ellie Goulding are all featured on this soundtrack, but few actually impress. This is more true of Goulding, who lands on the deluxe edition of the soundtrack a total of four times, making it feel like you are listening to one of her own albums half the time (literally speaking, it’s a quarter). It’s all a little too familiar and too repetitive, especially given that three out of the four tracks are from Goulding’s sophomore effort, Halcyon. ‘Beating Heart’, an original song for the film, attempts an epic-lovetorn feel only to crash by the time the chorus comes around, making this lead single one of the weaker links in this collection.

Although there were a few moments where artists diverged from their signature sounds, there were only two real successful standouts. Kendrick Lamar and Tame Impala’s ‘Backwards’, a rework of the latter’s ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, is the first. If you’ve seen Kendrick’s collaboration with Imagine Dragons or heard him rhyme over a Beach House sample, you will know that he handles genre-meshing tracks well. His gritty and aggressive approach to this song presents an interesting contrast against Tame Impala’s swirls of psychedelic indie rock and makes for a strong  punch amidst other attempts at elevating sounds, like Zedd’s piano-laden “Find You” and Skrillex’s “Stranger”, which features SBTRKT-like production before reverting back to the high pitched electronic drones central to Skrillex’s production. The second standout is A$AP Rocky’s collaboration with European producer Gessafelstein, who most recently worked on Kanye West’s Yeezus. Gessafelstein develops an eerie and dangerous sonic atmosphere while A$AP Rocky contemplates what it means to be a leader in a torn world. Gessafelstein and A$AP instil this creeping sense of urgency that you just can’t shake, a reflection of Beatrice’s emotional state over the course of the story.

Divergent music supervisor Randall Poster told MTV News that “The film is actually set not in a perfected future, but actually kind of in a future world that is deteriorating. And so we wanted to create a musical element that had reflected on current music sounds, but also felt kind of time-forward and had a certain futuristic element.” This was probably Poster’s objective when he pulled A$AP and Kendrick’s collaborations together as well as all sorts of electronic-heavy artists, but he also included a few artists that will certainly be making a significant mark in music in the years to come. Banks shared her hauntingly dark ballad, “Waiting Game” while Chance the Rapper makes Pia Mia’s R&B-pop “Fight For You” a little more substantial. Pretty Lights’ ‘Lost and Found’ gets an ambient treatment by Seattle’s Odesza which becomes one of the more dynamic moments on the Divergent soundtrack.

You might have to dig a bit to find the real gems on this OST, but it’s worth the hunt, especially when you find that you are hearing a future that’s coming together quite nicely.

7/10