Andy Kropa/Invision/AP
The 'Maze Runner' films star Dylan O'Brien (r.) and Ki Hong Lee (l.).

'Maze Runner: Scorch Trials': A preview of the upcoming movie in the hit young-adult franchise

The 'Maze' movies are based on the young-adult fiction series of the same name by James Dashner. While the first 'Maze' movie, released in 2014, didn't perform as well as some other young-adult book adaptations like 'The Hunger Games' or 'Divergent,' it did respectably enough that a second movie will arrive later this month.

The 2014 film “The Maze Runner” gets a sequel this month, with “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” starring Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario, heading to theaters on Sept. 18.

The “Maze” movies are based on the young-adult book series of the same name by James Dashner and center on a boy named Thomas who has no memory of his previous life and is transported to a glade that is surrounded by a maze. A group of other boys is already in there in the glade and Thomas soon learns that creatures live in the maze that make it impossible to traverse. Soon after Thomas’s arrival, a girl arrives in the maze for the first time.

The film series also stars Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson, and Aiden Gillen.

The first “Maze” book was released in 2009 and two sequels were published, including “Scorch.” Mr. Dashner also released a prequel, titled “The Kill Order,” and the author has said he will publish a second prequel titled “The Fever Code” in 2016. Dashner is also the author of the "Mortality Doctrine" series, the third book of which is set to be released this November.

(Spoilers follow for the first film follow…)

Mr. O’Brien said in an interview that Thomas is in a tough place during the second film. “He kind of holds all the responsibility for them getting out [of the maze] and he thought that was the answer,” he said. “He believed in it so hard.  Now that he’s gotten these guys out … all that is weighing on him now that he’s not so sure that this was actually the better choice. Maybe this wasn’t the best thing.”

Hollywood has of course had massive hits that were based on young-adult books, most recently the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” films and, to a lesser extent, the “Divergent” films, of which there are two more to come. But as in any genre, there are plenty that don’t hit, like recent films “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Vampire Academy.”

“The Maze Runner,” which debuted almost a year ago, did well at the box office – well enough, obviously, to spawn a sequel. Its gross of more than $102 million domestically looks paltry against the more than $408 million domestic gross of the first “Hunger Games” film, but “Maze” still did well.

Books like “Maze” and “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey, which is the basis for a film that will be released this January, are popular with their target audience – “Maze” is currently number two on the IndieBound children’s fiction series bestseller list for the week of Sept. 10 and “Wave” sold well also. But neither of the series were pop-culture sensations like “Harry Potter” or “Hunger Games” before the films debuted. 

In the future, unless another Harry or Katniss comes along, studios will most likely hope for solid box office performances like that of “Maze” when they’re adapting young-adult franchises and will hope to build their audience as more and more films are released. The model could be an unlikely one: the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, which now spans seven movies. The studio behind “Furious,” Universal, has continued to built up a fan base and the newest film, “Furious 7,” was the series’ highest-grossing.

Another example for studios can be "If I Stay," a 2014 young-adult film adaptation. The movie wasn't a massive hit by any means, but it had a low budget and performed fairly well, with its final gross putting it in the company of more high-profile releases of that year like "Muppets Most Wanted" and "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit."

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