Language: Fairly light, mild language. (A couple s**t and a few d**n.)
Violence/Gore: There is some violence and death, but nothing gory.
Music: A couple tracks grabbed my attention, otherwise a good, tense vibe throughout.
Thoughts: I was soexcited for this movie adaptation when it first came out. I even went to see it in the movie theater.
I will start with the book to movie differences:
These are the main differences I noticed that bugged me. Some things matter way more than others.
The characters actually had some character. When I read the book I mostly found everyone to be very self-centered and not really likeable in any way. In the movie, there was a bit more depth and likability.*
*This does not apply to Teresa. In the books she was weak, useless, and a mostly pointless character. I don't even know if you could rightly call her a "character" as what she was was so thin, shallow, undeveloped. The movie didn't change that much.
There wasn't nearly as much tension or mystery as there was in the book. Reading the books always leaves me feeling exhausted in many ways. In the movie it felt like the mystery and the stakes just weren't really there.
Thomas and Teresa don't have their telepathic communication abilities in the movie. That changed the whole tone of things. It made even less sense, then, when there was supposedly something possibly romantic between them later.
Where were the beetle blades? They knew they were being observed. They also had seen the plaques all over the maze that stated "World In Catastrophe Killzone Experiment Department" -or WICKED. They had more information in the books, even if they were a bit dumber about it all as well.
Gally never took over in the books. He just disappeared from the glade and they assumed his friends/allies were feeding him and he was hiding in the woods somewhere.
Alby didn't start alone in the Glade for a month. There was an original group of Gladers sent up together and then boys were sent up one by one after that.
Newt didn't have a limp in the movies. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is from his limp that we later learn he tried to kill himself by jumping off the maze walls. This is crucial to his character and they just erased it.
At the end of the movie when the kids are "rescued" from the facility the bus drives straight into the Scorch. But the facility was the same one they go back to in the next books and we find out later it is just outside of Denver (although the prequels say Alaska so...). The Scorch is somewhere in Mexico if I am remembering correctly. At the very least it is somewhere else entirely in the world, much closer to the Equator. This is important, because at the start of the second book they go through a flat trans that takes them from the turbulent mountainous area where they were "rescued" to the middle of The Scorch.
I felt the depiction of the Grievers failed just a little bit. Sure, they were scary and creepy and gross, but if you've read the book then you know that the Grievers are almost a physical impossibility and as such would be extremely hard to depict accurately and thus work best when you can read the descriptions and imagine them in your own head.
They downplayed a bit how weak and useless Teresa's character was. They did manage to immediately put her in a caretaker role though, so...yeah. (Heads up, they do this to pretty much every female through the trilogy.)
In the book, when the kids escaped the maze they ended up in an observation room with a bunch of scientists. The people were all alive. The events went down with Gally and Chuck, and then "rescuers" barged in and "killed" all the scientists in front of the kids. They led them out, loaded them on a bus, and knowingly ran over a woman on their way out.
Gally was beat to a disfigured pulp by Thomas after Gally stabbed Chuck while attempting to stab Thomas.
It was very clear that WICKED could control the Gladers. The best example was after Alby went through the changing and tried to relate to Thomas the things he had remembered and started to actually strangle himself. He gave up on revealing anything else after that.
Alby's memories of his past and the state of the world and what he had gone through before the maze were so awful that he tried to prevent Thomas and Co. from solving the maze by burning the map room. He truly believed that staying in the maze would be better than returning. This also led to his sacrifice later. He didn't just die randomly, he sacrificed himself hoping to help the group and also because he would rather die than escape the maze.
The code. There was a code hidden in the maze, but not in the sequence of openings. All sections of the maze were always open. But when they overlaid the different sections on wax paper, the way the walls changed and overlapped spelled out words. That sequence of words was a code to shut down the grievers.
The maze was not outside. This was one of my biggest grievances. It was inside basically a simulation room. So when Thomas thought he found a way out of the maze, it actually was just an endless cliff. They knew it was there. They had tried throwing stuff over the cliff and would watch things fall endlessly. But, when Grievers jumped off the cliff they just disappeared. This was the first clue to their exit. It turned out there was a small door in the "sky." This was their way out. They threw vines out and they hung in open air, indicating where the physical landing really was. And then, when everything started to go south WICKED shut off the sky. The sun disappeared and the "sky" just went blank grey. This was also one of the nudges that started to force the kids to attempt an exit from the maze.
I really wanted to see what the maze looked like when the sky shut off, and what the endless cliff looked like, and what the jump into midair looked like. And, when they had to go back into the shutdown maze in the third book it gave me such weird vibes and I could not wait to see what that would look like in the third movie, but in one move here they ruined all of that.
When the doors to the maze no longer closed at night, it was revealed that the Grievers would take only one boy every night, and it was true. This was part of the struggle of do we try to stay or do we try to leave and potentially they will kill us all?
Some boys chose to stay in the Glade, ever hopeful, and it was intimated that they all died horrible deaths either by Grievers or at the hands of the scientists.
At the exit, there was an army of Grievers waiting by the "cliff." They lost tons of boys fighting off the grievers so that Thomas, Teresa, and Chuck could make it through and hopefully shut the Grievers off. When they finally did, while they had lost a ton of boys, there was still a sizable group left. I believe it was still around 20 or 30 odd boys in the group. This was necessary for the horror and gore of the silver balls in the darkness and the lightning storms at the beginning of the next book. With only a core group left in the movie, you don't get to feel the impact of realizing how malicious WICKED is in ruthlessly killing off children or how heartless some of the boys are as they seem completely unaffected by the deaths and never even cared to learn the others' names (*cough*Thomas*cough*).
And finally, the biggest change that caused a massive shift for the whole movie series and I feel even changed the main point of the entire story:
They equated getting stung to being infected with the Flare. Those were never said to be the same thing, and in fact it ruins everything if they are. Because when Alby gets stung Teresa reveals she came up in the Box with two serums and they subsequently use one on Alby and it saves/cures him. If that was the flare, (because it sure looked and acted extremely similarly to how they depict the Flare in the next movies), then he was just cured of it and why are they doing all of this in the first place then??
If it's not the same as the Flare, then they still ruined it. In the movie, they had seen plenty of Grievers and they knew what they looked like. They showed one to Thomas through a little window in the door. Getting stung had happened plenty before and they always had a ready supply of the antidote. They knew the effects. They called it The Changing. It was awful, painful, and restored some memories that could drive the person crazy, but with the antidote you come out of it and could go back to mostly normal. In the movie, it basically just makes you crazy. Which leads to Ben. Ben's death was one of two in the trilogy of books that actually affected me. In the books, Ben attacked Thomas because of the memories he received during The Changing. He was not crazy though. He was simply reacting to the fact that he had been stolen as a child and forced through physical and psychological torture for who knows how long and he knew that Thomas had been an instrumental part of that. But, everything in the Glade is based on Order. Not community or working together, but Order, above all else. So, Ben, despite his sanity and perfectly logical reaction, was sentenced to banishment (which in this case is synonymous with Death By Griever) for breaking one of the rules of the Glade. He regrets, repents, promises to never do so again, begs, pleads, sobs, and yet at spearpoint the boys of the glade force him out to his horrific death. No exceptions to their Law. Except, then Thomas. But in the movie, they depict it as Ben was stung by a Griever and as such was going crazy with no hope of salvation (they didn't even know there was an antidote). In the movie then they say they are justified in their actions because he wasn't him anymore, wasn't human. But that was what made his death so impactful in the book. He was human. Fully human. Just a boy, even. A scared, traumatised, hurting boy. They knew that, and chose their rules over his life. And the whole time they knew full well what they were doing, sentencing him to a painful and horrific death. He had faced a Griever before, been stung, suffered through the Changing, survived, and now they were feeding him back to them.
THAT. That is the point. Human nature. The struggle to survive. Do you prioritize law over life? And what horrible things do you do to ensure safety, to keep order, to stave off your own death just a little longer? And what atrocities did WICKED not only commit firsthand but also allow in the name of the greater good?
The moral struggles brought up by the Flare, by its effects on people (in the books it more just slowly turns you rabid and the process could take weeks or even months and was hastened by mental stimulation. It does not just make you a zombie as the movie portrays.) added a depth and harsh reality to the story. By making it just a zombie virus, they took away all of that. (Although that does apply more in the next two movies.)
Despite how long I've just taken to point out all the differences, this was a fairly good adaptation. This was made obvious to me when we watched the second movie and I saw what a terrible adaptation really looked like for this series.
It trends a bit darker, and is a good, heart-pounding story with fantastic twists and turns, some pretty good (male) characters, and a good hook for the following movies.
In the End: 4 out of 5 stars. I'm not not saying the movie could've been cooler with this sound in there somewhere...