Recently David and I got to rent the Maze Runner so I could finally discuss the differences between the book and movie. There were quite a few differences, but at the same time I think they did a good job of keeping the heart of the story the same. The movie itself I thought did a decent job of telling a compelling story in a two hour time frame. It is impossible to fit everything in and there are a lot of various changes that need to be made to fit in those time constraints. The book has so much more time that it can spend exploring a variety of topics and character development. The movie on the other hand has to decide what the most important elements are and tweak things to empower those points. (Spoilers for Maze Runner after the jump)
One of the biggest ways that they managed the time constraints of a film is to actually shorten the amount of time the events in the story occur. In the book the events are drawn out for about a week, while the movie is only like 3 or 4 days at most. These means that event have to happen at a faster rate, but they handle the changes very well. One of the biggest things is the number of nights that the boys spend with all of the doors to the maze remaining open at night. In the book it is a few days, but in the movie it is one night. This means that they compound the damage and number killed from being spread out to all happening at once. This changes slightly what was happening, but does not change the point, which is that everything changed when Thomas and Teresa showed up. There are a lot of other items that changed along with the timeline, but the timeline was the simplest way to make an easy change to make the story effective on screen.
Added Visual Impact
A lot of the other changes, that made the biggest impact, were partly for time, but also for added visual impact. With a movie you need to be able to quickly show a scene and have people understand what is happening without too much additional explanation. In a book you can get away with having additional explanations for a scene, but in a movie that can take up precious time away from the actual story. One of the big things that they do is make there be a physical key that they use to have the door open that leads to the exit. Part of doing that means that they had to change how the Grievers and the maze function. In the book it is not key it is an invisible platform, which is harder to show visibly. They also do this with the code that they have to use to get through the exit door. In the book the maze actually changes and by overlaying the various changes it actually forms letters and words that they then use for the code. In the movie they make it that different numbered sections of the maze open at different points and the order that those sections open up is the code to the exit. There are other moments similar to this, but the idea is to be able to simplify a concept, but still keep the heart of what was happening in the book.
The thing that was important with the movie is to take the themes from the book and bring them to light. The book and movie both bring you into this world where Thomas and you are in the same position. He is showing up in this glade in the middle of a maze having no idea why he is there or even where there is. It is a big mystery as to why they are in the middle of the maze. The other part that is important is that Thomas thinks differently and questions everything and that everyone is suspicious of him. The suspicion comes from the fact that everything really does start to change soon after he shows up. This is the element that is really the core, it is the fact that everyone seemed to have become comfortable with their situation and then suddenly the boat is rocked. They reveal the secrets as the story progresses just like they do in the book, which is important for the building tension of why is any of this happening, which is the big mystery to be solved.
Unfortunately just like in the book the movie ends with an incredible cliffhanger. Luckily the movie did well enough that they decided to continue the series so we will get to see how they handle the other books. At the end we definitely get some of the answers we are looking for, but it also provides more questions. The book and movie are both good, but I think in the end that I liked the book better because it can really expand on the world that Maze Runner exists in.