The YA Countdown: Everything You Need to Know About 'The Maze Runner'

The YA Countdown: Everything You Need to Know About 'The Maze Runner'

Sep 18, 2014

Welcome to the YA Movie Countdown, our resident expert’s biweekly guide to young-adult book-to-film adaptations.

The Maze Runner

If you’ve been keeping up with the young-adult book-to-film adaptations, you’ve probably noticed that they’ve got a lot of world building going on, and The Maze Runner is no different. Director Wes Ball and the screenwriters do manage to squeeze a lot of information into the film’s 113-minute running time, but if you’d like a head start, here are all the basics via James Dashner’s book:

Where It All Starts

The Maze Runner kicks off in a metal box. The boy inside manages to figure out that it’s an elevator and that his name is Thomas, but that’s it. He can picture snow on trees and eating a hamburger, but he can’t remember his parents or where he came from. Eventually, the elevator stops, the ceiling doors open and Thomas is hoisted up into the Glade.

What’s the Glade?

According to Thomas, the Glade is a courtyard several times the size of a football field. It’s surrounded by four massive stone walls hundreds of feet high. Right in the middle of each wall is a door that opens every morning and closes every night. Those doors are the entryways to the maze.

the Glade itself is divided into four sections:

North East: This is where you can find the gardens, the area where the boys grow crops like corn, tomatoes and more. It never rains in the Glade, but as far back as the boys can remember, water’s always been pumped in through pipes in this area.

North West: This section is essentially home sweet home for the Gladers because it’s got a building they call Homestead. The structure keeps growing to accommodate new arrivals, but a number of boys opt to sleep outside instead.  

South East: This is the area for the barn and animal pens as well as the slaughterhouse, which the Gladers dub the Blood House.

South West: This region is called the Deadheads, a forest area with some sickly trees and benches at the front of it. Back in the thicker woods, you can find the Glade graveyard.

The Glade

In order to keep the Glade up and running, everyone must do their part. Here are the job options:

Builder: This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but they are the ones responsible for building new structures within the Glade.

Slopper: The lowest of the low. They’re stuck cleaning the toilets, showers, kitchen and more, because they’re not capable of doing much else.

Bagger: Their primary responsibility is to take care of dead bodies, but when that’s not an issue, the Baggers act as guards/police.

Cook: Frypan’s the head of the kitchen, but he’s got a bunch of cooks helping him out.

Map-maker: They do exactly what their name implies; they make maps. It may not sound as pivotal as working as a cook or builder, but there’s a reason the Glade needs folks dedicated to map-making and map-making alone.

Med-jack: These are the medics of the Glade, but dealing with Griever stings is priority number one.

Track-Hoe: They’re responsible for the Garden, so they spend their days tilling, weeding and planting.

Blood Houser: These are the guys who tend to the livestock and ultimately are responsible for slaughtering the animals for food.

Runner: The only Gladers allowed through those four doors are the Runners. They leave the moment the doors open and spend their day exploring the maze, trying to find a way out.

The Maze Runner

Who’s Who in the Glade

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien): Our main man. We first step into the Glade with him and then continue to follow him as he learns about the inner workings of the Glader lifestyle. Adjusting to his new home isn’t easy, but as soon as he gets more comfortable, Thomas finds himself drawn to the Runners and feels an inexplicable need to be one.

Chuck (Blake Cooper): Thomas’ very first friend in the Glade. He was the newbie before Thomas arrived, so he’s ordered to show him around. But even after Thomas is situated, the two tend to stick together. (Fun Fact: Cooper actually snagged the role by lobbying for the part on Twitter. Wes Ball got wind of his tweets and put him in contact with the casting director. Cooper sent in a tape and got the part!)

Alby (Aml Ameen): The man in charge by default. Things didn’t pan out too well for the last leader, so Alby stepped up and took the job. He can be tough, but he’s a strong leader and the Gladers respect him.

Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster): Second in command. Whereas Alby can be very by-the-rules and rather abrasive, Newt’s got no trouble throwing in a little humor and also adapting to the changing circumstances.

Teresa (Kaya Scodelario): the Glade’s very first girl. For that reason alone, Alby doesn’t trust her. Complicating matters further and making more of the Gladers dubious of her arrival is the fact that she seems to have a connection to Thomas.

Gally (Will Poulter): The resident jerk. He doesn’t trust Thomas so opts to bully him as much as possible.

Minho (Ki Hong Lee): The leader of the runners, also called the Keeper of the Runners.

The Maze Runner

What’s So Bad About the Maze Anyway?

First off, there’s no way out. Each and every day the runners head out, look around and then rush back to the Map Room in the Glade to sort out what they found, hoping to find some sort of pattern or key to escape. The hard part is, every night, the walls of the maze move. And then there are also the Grievers.

Meet the Grievers

Making the maze an even more challenging puzzle to figure out is the fact that after the doors close, the Grievers come out. The first time Thomas catches a glimpse of one of them, he describes it as “a horrific mix of animal and machine.” In the book, they’re about the size of a cow, but Thomas notes that they’ve got no distinct shape. They’ve got “wicked instrument-tipped appendages,” one of which is the stinger, and no good comes from taking a hit from a Griever stinger.

Glader Slang

The movie does offer up quite a bit of exposition to ensure that you’ve got all the vital story details, but as soon as Thomas arrives, the other Gladers start dishing out slang without a single explanation, so here are the key words to be aware of:

Klunk: Poop (Example: “If we told you everything, you’d die on the spot, right after you klunked your pants.” “Looks like a klunk in a T-shirt.”)

Shank: A derogatory term for person. (Example: “The shanks that sent us here ain’t told us nothin’.”)

Greenie: The newest arrival. (Example: “Well, Greenie, you survived First Day.”)

Good that: It’s not used in the movie, but this is what Gladers say when agreeing with one another.

If you’ve got all this down, you’re no Greenie anymore.

The Maze Runner arrives in theaters on Friday, September 19. Don’t be a klunk, and go check it out.

The YA Movie Countdown runs here on every other week.




Categories: Features, Countdown Column
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