The massive walls seem simultaneously industrial and ancient. They have the scale of natural rock formations, but there is no such thing as straight lines like these in the wild.
From the creeping vines and empty corridors, the walls also seem to have been totally abandoned … except for a group of young boys who live in the grassy center of this intimidating structure.
As you can tell from the tiny figures in this first concept image from the upcoming film The Maze Runner, not all of the boys are eager to find out what lies beyond the barrier.
Filming gets underway Monday for 20th Century Fox’s big-screen adaptation of James Dashner‘s best-selling 2009 young-adult novel, a mysterious survival saga that passionate fans describe as a fusion of Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games and Lost.
The illustration above is something first-time feature director Wes Ball created himself for inspiration. “It was for me, really. I like writing images,” says Ball, who previously worked as a special effects designer. “I started daydreaming about what it’s like to be at those doors and looking up at those walls.”
As cameras begin to roll on the film, which will open Feb. 14, 2014, he offered it up to Entertainment Weekly as a teaser for readers who have long imagined the novel’s menacing labyrinth.
The story begins with the lead character, Thomas (played by Teen Wolf‘s Dylan O’Brien), awakening inside a rusting, rumbling industrial elevator, which ascends from some unfathomable depth — into a peaceful meadow. He has no idea who he is or where he comes from. “The doors open and deposit him in this rustic, idyllic place surrounded by walls on all sides,” says Ball.
Thomas also finds himself surrounded by a ragtag group of other boys his age. “He is just one of many boys who have come up once a month in the last three years,” Ball says. They also have no idea who they are or how they got there, but they’ve pieced together a few things about the creepy walls that surround them.
Each morning, the barriers slide open. There is no other way out of the glade. “They have been trying to figure out how the hell to get out of this place and deal with the maze beyond the walls,” Ball says. “The doors open in the morning and the boys have to get back before they close because nobody survives a night in the maze.”
There’s something out there that preys on the ones who stay out too long. The kids call the creatures Grievers, though none has ever actually seen one (and lived.)
Most of the kids are content to stay within the confines — and relative safety — of the glade, even if it means never knowing why they’re there, or if anything lies beyond. Something must be, right? Something built all this and put them there. Only the bravest of the boys are willing to venture out to look for escape.
A moment like that is what Ball hints at amid the tiny figures in this concept drawing. “Thomas is the boy who takes that step forward when everybody else takes a step back,” he says.
Another challenge: the maze changes every day. Despite its imposing size, the walls somehow shift in the night, and so those who run out to map it tend to find their efforts useless the next day.
What makes Thomas different than the others?
“He’s curious,” Ball says. “That’s partly perceived as a threat, but it actually may be the thing that gets him out.”