George Orwell Isn’t Angry, He’s Just Disappointed

Review of ‘The Maze Runner

I’m about to do something despicable: I am about to judge a story by its movie.  Obviously, this is not the done thing – it’s like judging a wine by the picture on the label, or a symphony by how comfy the seats in the opera house are.  I can offer only this: I am more disgusted with myself than you could ever be.

I haven’t read The Maze Runner, nor its sequels, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, by James Dashner.  Let me be the first to admit the possibility that it is a literary masterpiece, plagued by none of the plot difficulties which I am discussing here.

Let me also say that ‘The Maze Runner’ movie is a ton of fun, at least until the climax.

Let me also also say I am going to spoil the ending.  Fair warning.

‘The Maze Runner’ is the story of a group of boys who wake up inside a gigantic mechanical maze with no memory of how they got there.  The maze is patrolled by large, shrieking mechanical bugs, who occasionally sting them with the Rage Virus from 28 Days Later.  To make a long and entertaining story short, they escape, and learn that they have been placed there by a sneaky cabal of Bilderberg-esque scientists (the same exact crew, I believe, who keep chasing poor Alice around in the Resident Evil sequels).

The scientists have the placed the children inside the maze to stop the zombie apocalypse which has swept the population in the aftermath of catastophic global warming (or so we are told in the last five minutes of the movie).  The young men, who might be immune from the zombie-ism (called ‘the flare’), were being studied by the scientists, who apparently needed fMRIs of their brains under…maze conditions.

This is all, obviously, deeply stupid and without any scientific rationale of even tissue-paper thinness.  Putting the potentially immune in a maze is not effective in combatting either zombie-ism or global warming.

[Side note: I can hear some internet asshat now, saying, ‘Scientists put animals in mazes all the time’.  Yes, but not to study disease immunity.]

I understand that peri-adolescent dystopias are all the rage these days, but the global catastrophism added nothing whatever to ‘The Maze Runner’.  In fact, the things which were entertaining about the story, the arbitrary creepiness of the maze, the dynamic among the boys in the face of the unknown, are starker and more interesting without the half-baked reveal of the puppet masters.  Sometimes, creepy stories stand better alone, without context or elaboration.

Dystopias ought to have a point.  The malignancies they depict are meant to have their roots in our own times and places.  They are meant to show us our danger.  ‘Global warming might burn the surface of the earth’ – OK.  Is it scarier, more revealing, more enlightening to add, ‘Global warming might burn the surface of the earth and then someone might put kids in a maze’?  It teaches us nothing, and detracts from an otherwise pleasingly weird story.

By all means, write a terrifying post-global warming dystopia.  Even put a maze in it, if you like.  But connect the two things!  Perhaps an angry group of Republicans has hidden the secret to passing a carbon tax, and a group of young men must find their way through their labyrinthine conservative thinking to find it!  Perhaps a scientist has found a way to scrub atmospheric carbon, but he has lost it deep in the bowels of a University designed to thwart PETA protestors!  But justify the inclusion of global disaster; don’t just throw it in at the end.

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