Book Vs. Film: Maze Runner

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Probably not. The Maze Runner franchise seemed to both blossom and wilt in a very short season of success; but maybe I only think that because this fabled third film is taking so long and I’d forgotten about it? That being said the first film grossed over $348  worldwide and was a massive success so who am I to judge its popularity?

Fans of the series, or ‘gladers’ will already have read all the books and seen the first two films but as we are still waiting on the third instalment I thought it was about time we started talking about it again.

I didn’t love the first book, I thought the film was better – despite the lack of character development  (full review here) and I haven’t got to the sequels yet because of it. Don’t get me wrong I like the book and I like the film but I’m not a superfan. By all means please share with me your love of this great series (I’m always eager to be converted by a fandom) I’m just telling you this upfront in an effort to better avoid a bias or unfair comparison. (or at least to prepare you for my shameful interpretation of the two, arguably very different, texts.)

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So, if you’re here you’ve probably watched or read book/film one and have some understanding of the basic plot (you guys can skip this next bit if you like). If you have not (and don’t mind the spoilers this post is crawling with) here’s the sitch:

So there’s this glade – a big ol’ grassy area (stone in the books) with some trees and basic structures – where a small group of ‘lost-boy-esque’ teenagers live. The glade is bordered by enormous walls with gaps that close during the night-time and open again at first light (4 gaps in the book and one in the film). These doors lead to a mysterious maze full of partially gelatinous, partly mechanical monsters. The maze itself is deigned to be the puzzle of all puzzles; it’s also the only possible way out for the gladers. Gladers enter the maze through this box elevator in the ground and cannot go back down. We join the story at the arrival of the last two gladers, Thomas first then (just a day later and completely out of the blue) a girl: Teresa. In the film she appears a few days after Thomas but we mostly put this down to the film’s necessary timeline adjustments.

Oh, also, seriously now, before I forget:

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Notable Differences

Book Film
Telepathy No telepathy
More griever attacks (for plot, to trigger memories) Thomas remembers things almost immediately (no need for all those griever attacks for memory!)
Alby and Thomas conflict Mentor relationship
Escape plan through griever entrance Keys in dead griever leads to escape plan
Maze of words Maze of numbers
Griever attacks one per day Chaos in battle
Gally’s mad because he has flashbacks Gally hates change
going down in the box will result in you being sliced in half The box doors are sealed shut


You really do lose a lot of brutality in adaptations from this genre. A lot of the draw in books like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games is the result of a clever tension between brutality and hope. You simply do not get that same tension on screen for a young adult or children’s adaptation, everything is a little softened. You can see it so clearly watching the Harry Potter films and how with the growing age of the audience comes more darkness and more powerful and brutal instances of violence. There is a tangible disparity too between The Maze Runner film and its cinematic adaptation. The book opens with descriptions of boys being literally cut in half for trying to escape. (I mean seriously!) the wounded are festering in makeshift hospital beds and fighting a fiery fever. Ultimately, things weren’t quite as gruesome in the film as they ought to have been. These gross and haunting aspects made the characters’ fear authentic and tangible, something the filmmakers would’ve had a hard time replicating. I think they did so very well using the design of the grievers as their opportunity to showcase that fear. They used insects and mechanics, that were so far removed from humanity, to create this really frightening image. The use of moisture and darkness as well as those awful clicking sounds was really well done. I mean look at the thing:

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It was a PG-13 which is really as high an age rating as you can get away with if you want the majority of teen and YA book fans to actually be allowed into the cinema. Unfortunately, this brings a whole host of restrictions and guidelines. That means we don’t get the same rawness and visceral visuals Dashner’s writing might have conveyed. Many young people watch shows like Game of Thrones and American Horror Story and audiences are becoming increasingly desensitized to gore and violence. That being said the fight scenes in The Maze Runner film didn’t have me focused on the lack of gore the way The Hunger Games did. It was pretty well choreographed; I’m sure fight scenes are almost always better on-screen plus with an enemy as gruesome as that ^^ you’ve got a good chance of having audiences’ eyes glued to the screen.

Character Development

I really wanted to be more attached to the characters on-screen but they didn’t seem to be there long enough for me to really grasp what they were all about. Gally in particular seems possessed with madness in the film without any real explanation. It’s as though he’s intimidated by Thomas and Teresa and afraid of the change their arrival represents. In the book his flashbacks give him this fabulous complexity where the reader is, at least initially, unable to discern whether or not Thomas is the good guy or not. He sees something none of us can see and we are prompted to find justification in the bizarre situation. It creates an uncertainty about Thomas’ reliability as protagonist and adds deeply to the story; especially in those last pages. Gally’s also painted as completely vulnerable to W.I.C.K.E.D in the books; they use him as a vessel to enact certain events: Chuck’s death was so heavy and powerful and it was partly resulting from Gally’s own complexity of character. The weight of this plot event also draws on the intimacy between Chuck and our veritable hero, Thomas.

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The relationship between Chuck and Thomas in the book is such a wonderfully developed thing, each saving the other from numerous faux pas and potentially life threatening situations. They were made brothers over the course of the book and removing Thomas’ only resemblance of family at the end of the book was a fierce but important move for Dashner to make for the story. I can only imagine the effect this has on Thomas’ behaviour in the following books (and indeed the films) and would hope that it’s significance is not lost. His journey from uncertainty to leadership throughout the narrative was supported heavily by his relationship with Chuck; each bettered the other and chuck’s absence will no-doubt weigh heavily in the subsequent narrative.

The relationship between Teresa and Thomas is a whole different kettle of fish. They were both distrusted by the original gladers due to the nature of their arrival. In the book Teresa and Thomas can communicate telepathically with one another and both are seemingly different from the others in a way that remains a mystery until much later on. This gives them a kind of bond and Teresa seems closer to Thomas than any of the other gladers. Also in the book, Teresa brings ‘the end’ to the gladers sparking a series of events that leads to their escape (but not without hardship). Her character is left very open in the first book, no doubt allowing for development in the second but it is (like chuck) her relationship with Thomas that drives his character development forward. She takes Thomas’ position as the ‘Greenie’ (or newest arrival) at the glade and gives him someone to figure out his memories with. She elevates him somewhat into a position where he can become brave and become the leader he is by the end of the book.

Puzzle Resolution

So this was a difference I found significant in my reception of both texts; maybe you didn’t? Let me know but either way it is something that definitely needs mentioning. In the book there’s this ‘griever hole’ through which those mechanical monsters enter the maze and set course to terrorise the gladers and *this* is the key to escaping the maze. Once they figure that part out the gladers have to input a series of words (discovered by mapping the shape of the maze for months) into a computer (FLOAT – CATCH – BLEED – DEATH – STIFF – PUSH) the last of which refers to an action not a word that needed to be typed. However, in the film an interesting idea is used, one that makes the grievers much more interesting robotic antagonists: they contain the key to escaping the maze.

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In the film there is no Griever hole and Thomas only discovers the little beeping key things (pictured above) after one of the grievers is ripped apart. The keys lead them to the grievers’ place of origin and they escape using the sequence of sections that exist within the maze: 71526483. (I’m as confused as Minho looks here but it does make sense when you watch it, promise!)

I found the book method more realistic in terms of the way the gladers recorded the shapes of the maze. The map room is exactly how I think a bunch of ‘random’ people chucked in a maze would go about recording it; the huge model in the film seems a bit over the top for me but I did actually like both. The book version seemed very simple once they figured it out; good job they worked out there was going to be a code before they went gallivanting off to wilderness unknown – I dread to think how it would’ve turned out without knowing which words to input!

Ultimately I enjoyed the film marginally more than the book (perhaps because I watched it before I read the book) but they’re standing on pretty level ground really. I’m fairly sure that’s an unpopular comparison but I really do think both are closely matched. The book creates characters with more depth and events with more gore but the movie adds complexities that are also really interesting. Perhaps I’ll change my mind when I catch up to the later books/films but all in all I think we can thank Dashner for writing a fabulous dystopian story and look forward to the upcoming cinematic release.

Thanks for reading! Let me know where you stand on the film/book debate in the comments 🙂



“Who is Holly Golightly?” Breakfast at Tiffany’s

It’s been 56 years since Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) first graced our screens and it was undoubtedly different from the 1958 novella upon which it is based. Both the Hollywood audience as well as dominant sociological ideals (critically the assumptions made about gender and sexuality) contributed to the changes made during the adaptation process. “A film adaptation creates a new story; it is not the same as the original, nor should it be considered as such” and I will NOT be comparing these two in a “which one is better” way but more hope to examine the differences in an effort to celebrate both. 

I have such a big love for this story in every way it is told – not out of any high-brow literary significance (though arguably both have their places in history) but out of pure, unmarred, enjoyment. Audrey was such a beautiful and talented woman and, frankly, I enjoy every film I’ve ever seen her in and Capote is a particular favourite author of mine too so it’s no surprise I’m a fan of both editions. Here’s a quick summary of some differences between the two.


Key differences

Book (1958 – Truman Capote) Film (1961)
The songs Moon River
Joe Bell Who?
The War Removed by context
Open Ended (Gritty) Romantic Ending
Setting (40s) Setting (60s)
Sexuality boldly explored Sexuality significantly muted

Though some of these differences can be explained easily by way of context it’s important to remember they affect the overall  message of each story; giving them both very different overall meanings. (Though both are kinda perfect anyway, in their own way. ) Some more noticeable differences can be seen between individual character traits and changes to these are what really makes all the difference.

Image result for holly golightlyHolly

Everything about the on-screen Holly is iconic and she’s got quite a classy image these days, but she wasn’t always perceived that way. Though both versions are beguiling and a little quirky, one is certainly more raw and rough cut than the other sparkling Tiffany diamond.

Holly’s character in the book was a lot more risque than the Spirited lady we see climbing down the fire escape in the film. Capote’s original choice for Holly (Marilyn Monroe) allegedly turned down the role after concerns were raised that it would damage her image (although other sources argue Hepburn was just a better fit for the role). What riled people at the time was Holly’s clear bi-sexuality and the liberated nature in which she behaved. In the re-writing it seems all and any homosexuality was completely off limits – it’s crazy to think how far we’ve come in such a short time. In the book Holly tells us “people couldn’t help but think I must be a bit of a dyke myself. And of course I am.Everyone is: a bit. So what? That never discouraged a man yet, in fact it seems to goad them on”, a comment I found both surprising and unwittingly refreshing to read. It really is a pity this version of Holly wasn’t fully realised on screen. (Not that I don’t love Hepburn’s style.)

Despite the reductions made to some of her character traits she still maintains a unique perspective on the world with much of her trademark sass. In a nice tribute to Capote’s Holly, little aspects like her french phrases and wit carry flawlessly from page to screen.

She also doesn’t come across as completely helpless despite the romantic ending, she continues to assert “I’m not gonna let anyone put me in a cage” leaving the narrator seeming (at least a little bit) vulnerable before the closing scenes. There still lingers a note of female freedom but it’s much less overt than it’s first incarnation.

‘Fred’/ Paul/ The Narrator

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In the book this complex character is not a sex worker (though he is presented this way in the film.) In fact, the whole ‘ this is my decorator, I’m definitely not sleeping with her for her money (except I totally am)’ debacle seems to spring completely out of nowhere, the female character ‘2E’, who supports Paul’s writing career, doesn’t exist at all in Capote’s novella.

That aside our narrator character on-screen still features a few more notably different characteristics to his counterpart between the pages. Like Holly, his sexuality is clearly closeted and his on-screen version is presented in a hetero-normative way, even going so far as to make him the main love interest of the story itself despite previously having been more of a spectator. On paper his love for her is not defined in a sexual way and it reads as if he was more in awe of her than anything else. He always insinuated that her life was so different from his own.


So we have established that our main characters had a few things in common in the novella, most notably their sexual liberation and independence.

George Axelrod allegedly said of his screenwriting adaptation process  “what we had to do was devise a story, get a central romantic relationship, and make the hero a red-blooded heterosexual” and so he did. Film is a huge industry and everyone surely knows that ‘sex sells’ but of course only heavily censored heterosexual love is acceptable enough to please us all; at least, that’s how it was back then. Censors played a huge part on the narrative and working around them was a difficult task. The casting of innocent and fabulous Hepburn helped to deflect attention away from her character’s occupation and her eventual submission to the security of a heterosexual relationship worked to “redeem” her for it later on.

I mean, Hollywood in the 1960s doesn’t need a huge introduction. It was the dominant ‘it’ thing – it was the be-all and end-all of entertain

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ment in the US and, like many beings with extraordinary powers, they didn’t always use them for good. Or perhaps, what we perceive to be ‘good’ now. The film was very much a product of its time and the prescriptive nature of Hollywood culture over this period of second wave feminism means that some things were lost in the translation from page to screen. The subtle intertwining of power and vulnerability Capote gives Holly in the novel is somewhat stifled by the movie’s hollywood ending; it is an ending in which the wretched street girl is saved by the man – typical Hollywood –  and in fact, the narrator actually says “you belong to me.” It’s still a very sweet story and definitely one I’ll continue to enjoy but (In light of Capote’s novella) it’s clear the film missed an opportunity to be both progressive and poignant for its time. 

Everything Else

As vague a sub heading as that is I do feel that sexuality (and the dynamic between Holly and ‘Fred’) are the most distinctive changes to have occurred over the adaptation process and are the main reason for such varied texts. All that leaves are the smaller, albeit just as important, details.

chow-ss-slide-G7KR-superJumboFor instance the character of I.Y. Yunioshi is one that really needs some comment. The racial implications in both texts are pretty fiery but with the book being set in the 40s some slurs can be (at the very least) understood in context. The much later film with the almost cartoonish behaviour from Mickey Rooney is pretty cringe-worthy under today’s standards. The blatant whitewashing had since been acknowledged by the team behind it as a toxic caricature and hopefully is something we won’t see again. Aside from that, Mag Wildwood features much less in the film than in the book and seems a little marginalised. Though not imperative to the story it does affect how audiences perceive the relationship  between the two of them. Another character we don’t really see is Joe Bell, the bartender with whom our narrator reminisces about Holly. The storyteller style is lost a bit because of his absence but in some ways he was more of a frame for Holly’s story – the film puts all of its focus on her.

The New Holly

Image result for pixie lott as holly golightlyBorne of an iconic image Holly is constantly re-imagined. Both Anna Friel and Emila Clarke have taken to the stage to embody Miss Golightly but the most recent attempt (or attempt I’ve seen) was in 2016 by Richard Greenberg with Pixie Lott as Holly. It was great to see the version of events from the book played out in front of me and whilst, for me, Lott didn’t capture everything it meant to be the Holly Golightly (Hepburn’s shoes are rightly very difficult to fill) it seems right that Holly should be a character who is re-painted over and over again. It’s a tapestry that develops over time with different subtleties of character put forward by each attempt. I think a lot of Capote’s message lingers in that notion, that a little bit of a ‘wild thing’ exists in each of us, one way or another.

Do you prefer one over the other? Or have anything to add to the comparison? Let me know in the comments below.

  – Catherine Moore, Travelling –