By Sarah Burstein, Staff Writer
I was at the movies last Saturday, munching on overpriced popcorn and watching Dylan O’Brien be effortlessly attractive when it occurred to me that the movie I was watching seemed eerily similar to movies I’d already seen.
I was watching The Maze Runner, directed by Wes Ball and based on the 2009 young adult novel of the same name by James Dashner. The movie follows Thomas, played by O’Brien, as he wakes up after an cage-like elevator ride to find himself in a grassy expanse inhabited by other young men, remembering nothing about his past except his first name.
The movie follows Thomas and his comrades as they attempt to escape their abandonment by routing an exit path through the colossal maze that surrounds their compound. And if that wasn’t difficult enough, the maze changes positions every single night. Lovely.
The film follows a similar track as other movies in its genre: the teen dystopian genre, arguably first made popular by The Hunger Games series and followed by the Divergent series, The Giver and now The Maze Runner.
All of these films portray teens or young adults living in some kind of authoritarian society. Usually, the protagonist is an unlikely hero, placed in some kind of predicament where he or she decides to fight against the presiding leadership. There might be some kind of love interest, and family often plays an important role in the protagonist’s motives. All of these films do share one common ground: bad things (often death) happen to good people (who are often young and innocent).
These movies have garnered major box office and cultural success, so what does it say about us as a society? Why do we keep paying to watch humanity perish in tragic and often government-decreed ways?
Theo James, who starred in Divergent, thinks it has to do with the ever-changing environment of the current world and how we’re often left to contemplate how the transitory nature of present day is going to affect the future. Shailene Woodley, James’ costar, believes dystopian movies are “a good platform for looking at our society as a mirror.” Maybe we’re so intrigued by dystopian futures because we all hold this deep-seated fear that parts of it might be real.
The Maze Runner is not the first of the dystopian movie genre and it definitely won’t be the last (the sequel is set for a September 2015 release), so clearly the trend isn’t one that will be easily stopped. But maybe that’s a good thing. Our obsession with a post-apocalyptic dystopia may be feeding box offices, but maybe we should let it feed our actions.
Instead of fussing over the world’s future, let’s fuss over our actions today, because if anyone’s going to prevent the world from becoming hell on earth, it’s going to be its inhabitants.