Running through Reapings and Factions: the rise of dystopia

First it was the vampire phenomenon which I’ll unashamedly admit, I was sucked into, pardon the pun. Now, it seems the books topping the bestseller list and the films that have people flocking to the cinema all have one common thematic setting – dystopia.

Characteristically unpleasant, brutal and harsh, dystopian societies are generally what develop after an apocalyptic-type disaster. Something goes so horribly wrong that society as we know is collapses and a new one takes its place. The rapid rise of this genre and our eagerness to see worlds that parallel our own yet are so dissimilar, raises one rather pressing concern – are we genuinely dissatisfied with our current society?

Do we long for a world where society is divided into factions? Are we secretly enthralled by the idea of the Hunger Games? Is it no longer too far-fetched to believe we are not alone in the universe? Or does seeing a group of boys (plus one girl) confined to the centre of a maze make us actually cherish the mundane and regular civilisation we live in?

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Then again, that is quintessentially the appeal of the entire fiction genre. It’s interesting because it’s different but that doesn’t mean we would choose to live in those fantasies over our own reality. Unless of course, it’s Hogwarts. So yes, sitting in peak hour traffic on the way to my nine to five job is horrible, boring and excruciatingly time-consuming, but it’s still better than having to face a Reaping or risk becoming Factionless.

The latest dystopian book-to-film adaptation to land at the Box Office, is The Maze Runner, based off the trilogy written by James Dashner. While it was exciting to see a new fantasy world with a maze, robotic monsters and memory loss, I would be lying if I didn’t say half of the appeal of this movie was Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien.

Will Poulter (right) in We're The Millers.

Will Poulter (right) in We’re The Millers.

It was strange to watch Will Poulter play the arrogant bully, given how epically he performed a comedic role in We’re The Millers. It’s not fair to cluster actors into a single genre but when an actor plays a part, especially their first breakthrough role so perfectly, it tends to happen subconsciously. O’Brien on the other hand, totally exceeded my expectations and adapted amazingly well to his role as Thomas – a character that’s the polar opposite to O’Brien’s character Stiles Stilinski on Teen Wolf. We see fear, curiosity, anger, bravery, humility and compassion from Thomas and O’Brien masters every emotion effortlessly. For his first full length motion picture, he most definitely deserves an applause.

As with most book-to-film adaptations, there are plans for sequels to turn the film into a franchise of epic films that demand a mass following and billions in revenue. But usually the first movie has some kind of ending, a conclusion to satisfy the audience and wrap up the immediate storyline, just in case the film is a flop and a sequel doesn’t come to pass. Herein lies my biggest complaint about The Maze Runner. The story doesn’t make sense without a sequel. There is no conclusion, no loose ends are tied and we’re left wondering what the hell is going to happen.

Yes, that’s the whole idea of a film franchise but let’s compare it to The Hunger Games, for example.The first film ends with Katniss and Peeta surviving the arena and Haymitch explaining that The Capital isn’t happy with her surviving the Games. This suggests to the audience that a sequel could be made and that the plot could continue. It is obvious, given that we know there are three books but nothing in Hollywood is set in stone so there’s always the potential that plans for a sequel will fall through and THG accommodates for this.

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The problem with The Maze Runner is that it felt like there should be another 20 minutes added to the end of the movie to find some kind of conclusion. Even if it’s not a finite ending to the entire film’s concept, we still could’ve been given more information to conclude at least the first part of the story arc.

Nonetheless, now I am absolutely enthralled by the idea of a sequel, so the filmmakers have aced their job. No doubt, the movie producers are basking in the knowledge that despite their film being only one month old, it’s going to be the next big Hollywood franchise. And I have absolutely no problem with that!


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