The experience of figuring out a strange, new world is a common science fiction plot theme. Sometimes it’s literally an alien environment, think Tatooine in Star Wars, but sometimes the strange, new world is a vision of our own future on Earth. Often, the central character of the story is also new to the environment, and we the audience learn alongside him or her. For example as Morpheus introduces Neo to the truth of the Matrix and the real world outside, he introduces us as well.
The Maze Runner opens with a boy waking up in a freight elevator rising through a dark corridor and then arriving in the Glade, a rustic colony of boys and young men. He remembers no details of his life before the lift other than his name, Thomas. He soon realizes that all the residents of the Glade arrived in the same state. They all know nothing of their lives before, including why they’re in the Glade, but they know that someone has put them there. Every month, a new boy arrives and goes through the same extreme culture shock.
The Glade is surrounded by four huge, stone walls. Each one has a door that is open all day, but they lead out into a giant maze. The doors close every night, and no one has ever spent a night in the maze and lived because of enormous cyborg scorpions called Grievers who inhabit the Maze. They know that the maze must be their way out, but they’ve searched for years and never found an exit so life in the Glade consists of producing food, building huts to live in and governing themselves to survive.
This Maze Runner is, in many ways, a fascinating update of the Lord of the Flies. The boys create their own society, learn how to exist peacefully in trying circumstances, and survive by sticking to clear rules and defined roles.
The kicker is the monthly introduction of a new boy. How do you sustain society in harsh conditions when you never know who will join you? The boys have to instruct new arrivals in the rules and define their role in the community. The Glade community depends on hospitality and inclusion for its survival.
The Maze Runner is based on a popular YA novel. The movie version moves at a brisk, tight pace. Instead of a cast of celebrities The Maze Runner features unknown boys who give raw, real performances.
In many ways the story of Thomas entering this doomed world and doing his best to save it is a subtle Christ allegory, for he is different from the other residents, and he comes with portents of irrevocable change. He certainly has no messianic image of himself but did Jesus always know his vocation as Messiah or did he piece it together from the evidence he saw in his life? Before you accuse me of denying the deity of Christ remember that I am asking questions not making statements! Here is another question: if Jesus came to Earth with a fully-formed Trinitarian theology doesn’t that lessen his humanity? Perhaps, like Thomas, he had his memory taken and had to figure out how to save the world. I won’t spoil the ending of the movie (which is well worth the price of admission) except to say that, just as when Jesus entered our world, life does not go on as it always has in the Glade.