A fight for survival in a shape-shifting arena begins as The Maze Runner, James Dashner’s 2009 dystopian adventure (Delacorte), arrives in movie theaters on September 19. The film from Gotham Group/Temple Hill Entertainment and 20th Century Fox is directed by Wes Ball, and stars Dylan O’Brien as Thomas, Kaya Scodelario as Teresa, and Will Poulter as Gally. With its focus on adolescents forced to endure intense, life-threatening conditions at the hands of a nefarious authority, The Maze Runner is thematically kindred to The Hunger Games, yet with its predominantly male cast, the story is also reminiscent of the William Golding dystopian classic, Lord of the Flies. The film closely follows the events of the first novel in Dashner’s series of four books, in which 16-year-old Thomas awakens within an enclosed maze known as The Glade, with no memory of who he is. There, he meets other teenage boys who have also been transported there under cryptic circumstances. The Maze Runner was followed by The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and the prequel, The Kill Order; more than five million copies of the four books combined have been sold.
With the abundance of popular YA novels being adapted to film in recent years (with varying commercial success), fans have become increasingly vocal about their expectations that a movie honor its source material. An author publically offering an endorsement of the movie based on his or her book has seemingly become par for the course; if the author approves, then readers may be more likely to set aside quibbles about casting choices or other grievances. In accordance, Lois Lowry took the stage at ALA with Jeff Bridges to discuss and praise the adaptation of The Giver, and John Green has made known his affection for the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars.
In anticipation of The Maze Runner’s release, a Hypable article made the case for why The Maze Runner may be the next adored page-to-screen franchise. On the list is Dashner’s satisfaction with how the film translates the book, so purists can buy their tickets with clear consciences (the article also suggests that the cast “is absolute perfection;” that the maze is “dark” and “foreboding,” and serves as an ideal labyrinth to house the “horrifying, disgusting, and downright nightmarish” Grievers that relentlessly stock the Gladers).
Dashner has been a particularly active participant in the creation of The Maze Runner, serving as a script consultant, visiting the set twice, being present for the recording of the musical score, and even having a cameo in the film. Dashner described his reaction to seeing the movie for the first time in a Barnes & Noble guest blog post. “The best word I can use to describe the experience of watching the film is transcendent. I cried, I laughed, I trembled from head to toe. Good thing the room was dark, because I’m pretty sure I looked like a crazy person,” Dashner said in his post. He also attended a pre-release screening of the film for fans at the Gaslamp Theater in San Diego during Comic Con on July 24. Fan tweets following the screening ranged from positive to ecstatic.
Since there are four books in the series, the franchise offers an abundance of source material; in fact, filming for The Scorch Trials is tentatively set to begin this fall (The Maze Runner was originally intended to release this past February, but the movie’s release date was pushed back to allow for additional promotional time.
Gearing up for the movie’s September premiere, Random House sponsored an August 5 “Maze Runner Day,” during which the publisher spread the word about its movie tie-in program, sharing images via various social media sites. The tie-in titles include a companion book, Inside the Maze Runner: The Guide to the Glade, and a paperback tie-in edition of the first book. Additionally, The Rule of Thoughts, book two of Dashner’s The Mortality Doctrine series, arrives from Delacorte on August 26 with a 250,000-copy first printing.