Reviewed by Markus Watson
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 53 min.
Our content ratings (0-10): Violence 7; Language 4; Sex/Nudity 2.
Our star rating (0-5): 4
He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
When I was a youth pastor, I did my best to stay current on the latest youth trends. Now that I don’t work directly with youth anymore, I’m not quite as on top of things when it comes to youth culture. But when I watched The Maze Runner, I felt like I was right back in my youth ministry days watching kids who felt powerless in a world run by someone else.
The movie begins with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) locked inside a cage ascending an elevator shaft. When the cage reaches the top and opens, he finds himself surrounded by a gaggle of boys reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. Thomas is completely disoriented and tries to escape, only to discover that he is trapped in a glade surrounded by massive walls.
Soon he discovers what is on the other side of those walls: a giant maze. Even worse, the maze changes every night. That night, when he falls asleep, he has a strange dream about being in a laboratory where a woman tells him, “Wicked is good.”
Some of the boys living in the glade have been assigned the task of being “maze runners.” Their job is to run through the maze each day trying to map the maze, working out the patterns of the changes in the maze each night, so that they might eventually find a way out.
But the maze isn’t the worst of their problems. At night, the maze is trolled by horrific creatures that the boys call Grievers. And there’s no surviving the Grievers for anyone who gets trapped in the maze after dark.
One night, Thomas does get trapped in the maze with Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and the group’s leader, Alby (Ami Ameen). Amazingly, under Thomas’ guidance, the trio survives the night and even kill one of the Grievers.
That changes things. Now, the boys have hope that there may be a chance of escape from the maze. But now, whoever controls the maze raises the stakes, allowing the Grievers to attack during the day and within the Glade.
In the meantime, a girl named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) has been sent to the glade in the elevator cage. In her hand is a note that says, “She’s the last one… ever.”
At this point the community of boys divides into two camps: those led by Thomas who want to escape the maze and those led by Gally (Will Poulter) who want to keep things the way they are.
By this time, Thomas has remembered who he is and where he came from. Both he and Teresa were working for an organization called WCKD (the World Catastrophe Killzone Department) that was doing experiments on these boys. When he confesses this, Gally is furious and ties Thomas and Teresa up at the mouth of the maze as a sacrifice to the Grievers and whoever is doing this to them. But Thomas has enough friends and supporters that they don’t let Gally go through with this.
Half the group leaves the glade and ends up escaping the maze, only to find out that the world outside the maze is all but destroyed due to something called the Flare and that they were subjects in some kind of experiment designed to help save the world from the Flare.
As I watched this movie, I was reminded of a book by Chap Clark called Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers. In the book, Clark states, “By the time adolescents enter high school, nearly every one has been subjected to a decade or more of adult-driven and adult-controlled programs, systems, and institutions that are primarily concerned with adults’ agendas, needs, and dreams.” He goes on to describe how kids are pressured to perform in school, in children’s dance competitions, and in “competitive t-ball.”
Clark refers to this condition as “abandonment.” Kids today feel abandoned by the adults who are supposed to care for them. Adults have chosen to focus on their own agendas rather than care for the children who need them.
In a sense, The Maze Runner is a parable. It portrays in story form what kids today feel. They feel stuck in a maze from which they can’t escape. Kids feel like they’re left to fend for themselves. They are attempting to navigate the maze of adolescence without much guidance from parents and other adults.
The issue of abandonment needs to be a major concern for the church today. In most of our churches, our kids have been relegated to a youth ministry that takes place only in the youth room, or over in the Christian Education building, or that is recognized only on a special day called “Youth Sunday.” It’s time for Christian adults to make a commitment to the next generation, developing relationships with the kids in our churches—not just youth group leaders, but all adults.
It’s a challenge, no doubt. But it’s critical for the well-being of our kids—and for the future of the church.
This review with a set of questions is in the Oct. 2014 issue of Visual Parables.