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'The Maze Runner' sequel gets September 2015 release

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Following a successful opening weekend for The Maze Runner, Fox is digging its heels into the franchise. The studio has announced that the adaptation of the next installment in James Dashner’s YA series, The Scorch Trials, will arrive on the big screen Sept. 18, 2015.

The Maze Runner, starring Dylan O’Brien, came in first in the box office race this weekend, raking in $32.5 million, edging out competition like A Walk Among the Tombstones and This Is Where I Leave You. Wes Ball’s full-length feature debut already has a worldwide gross of $81.5 million. The box-office win for the movie, which tells the dystopian story of a group of boys (and one girl) trapped in a community surrounded by a labyrinth, is something of a rare feat—a non-Hunger Games or Twilight YA adaptation that captured moviegoers’ attention. Variety said that it “escaped the young adult franchise curse.”

The sequel is already in pre-production, as EW reported, and is set to start shooting in the next six weeks.

Critical Mass: Can 'The Maze Runner' find a way out of the YA wilderness?

Expectations for The Maze Runner, the latest YA best-seller turned franchise wannabe, seemed low, so much so that critical faint praise suddenly feels like a ringing endorsement. “Don’t let that YA tag put you off,” says EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his review. “There isn’t a dying heroine or hunky vampire to be found anywhere in this better-than-average adaptation of the James Dashner bestseller. Just a bunch of confused kids on the run from a mysterious organization known as W.C.K.D.

Based on Dashner’s 2007 post-apocalyptic novel, the first chapter of a trilogy that includes The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, The Maze Runner is about a Lord of the Flies community of teen boys called Gladers who are trapped in a maze by unclimbable walls and lethal, giant spider-like creatures called Grievers. Each month, another boy is deposited within the walls, with no memory of his life before that moment besides his name. But when Thomas (Teen Wolf‘s Dylan O’Brien) arrives, his ability as a Runner to safely navigate the maze opens the possibility for escape and the answers behind their mysterious incarceration.

Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) plays Gally, the tribe’s enforcer who’s suspicious of Thomas’ gifts, and Kaya Scodelario (The Skins) plays the pretty girl—the only girl—who’s dropped into their midst and has clues about Thomas’s past. First-time director Wes Ball, a visual-effects guru who was hired on the basis of an 8-minute short titled Ruin, has seemingly accomplished his mission: The Maze Runner is no Beautiful Creatures or The Host. Thomas could live to run another day.

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'Maze Runner' teens prepare to battle Liam Neeson

Dylan O’Brien and his fellow gladers face off against Liam Neeson at the box office this weekend as The Maze Runner opens alongside A Walk Among the Tombstones. But, it looks like the teens will triumph in the end.

The star-packed This is Where I Leave you also opens in about 2,868 locations this weekend, as well as a number of smaller releases, including the Kevin Smith horror pic Tusk, the Dan Stevens-led thriller The Guest, the fact-based Tracks, and Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi pic The Zero Theorem. And if you’re a die hard Dan Stevens or Adam Driver fan, both have two movies debuting.

Here’s how things might play out.

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'The Maze Runner' will be shown in three-screen panoramic format

Some movies are just too big for the big screen. That’s the thinking behind Escape, a three-screen digital panoramic setup that audiences will be able to experience for the first time in showings of The Maze Runner starting on Sept. 19, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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Exclusive: How Wes Ball designed the perfect maze for 'The Maze Runner'

When Wes Ball finished reading The Maze Runner, the first book in James Dashner’s hugely popular trilogy about a group of teenage boys mysteriously imprisoned by the sky-high walls of a seemingly impossible-to-crack maze, his mind started spinning as he began to think about what Dashner’s world would look like. He hadn’t even signed on to direct the movie yet, but, with a background in VFX it just seemed natural.

“I went and pulled up some of the 3D assets I made for Ruin,” Ball says of his arresting 2012 short about a post-apocalyptic universe. “This one image was kind of my way into the story: This little concept image of this kid standing back-lit against the sun with these huge towering walls behind him. It was like Lord of the Flies. It’s dark and edgy and messy.”

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For the uninitiated, Lord of the Flies is perhaps the best way to think of this particular story about a group of boys living in the Glade in the center of a hostile maze that’s teeming with deadly, Alien-like creatures called Grievers. The guys, who welcome a fellow prisoner every month, have created a tenuously stable society. When the rebellious Thomas (Teen Wolf‘s Dylan O’Brien) arrives, however, the once-predictable maze starts behaving erratically, and the hunt for answers as to why they’re all trapped there becomes even more urgent.

As $100+ million production budgets become standard for young adult adaptations, the teams behind smaller movies like The Maze Runner need to really work to stand out, especially when designing a world this elaborately imagined. Here’s how Ball and his F/X team brought the tricky geography of Dashner’s world to the screen.

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The secrets of 'The Maze Runner' trailer: A deep dive with author James Dashner -- EXCLUSIVE

What is beyond the maze?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a greenie, a runner, or if you have no idea what either of those words means. That’s still one of many central mysteries plaguing the group of unlucky boys stranded in the Glade of The Maze Runner — a new film from director Wes Ball based on novelist James Dashner’s hugely popular dystopian series. The story opens with a disoriented teen trapped in an elevator. He only knows his name: Thomas.

Soon Thomas (Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) finds himself among a group of boys, all living in a field surrounded by impossibly high walls. It’s a maze, and no one knows why they are there or how to get out. Mythologies swirl and the stakes keep rising as the boys try to uncover the mysteries of their plight. It doesn’t help that things “start changing” when Thomas arrives. To describe much more could spoil things for the uninitiated—but now that the trailer has finally arrived, Maze Runner devotees have a treasure trove of clues to dissect.

James Dashner was nice enough to talk to EW about the trailer, his favorite parts, and all the details that will leave die-hard fans either howling or scratching their heads. Check out Dashner’s deep dive after the jump.

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'The Maze Runner': Patricia Clarkson joins cast of dystopian saga -- EXCLUSIVE

Who are these amnesiac boys, rising up each month from a rusting elevator into the middle of a grassy glade?

What is this massive stone maze surrounding them, and why does it change shape each day? How long will some unseen intelligence keep testing them as they try desperately to escape?

These are the core questions of The Maze Runner, and EW has learned Patricia Clarkson will play the character with the answers.

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'The Maze Runner': Eerie concept art revealed for best-seller movie adaptation -- EXCLUSIVE

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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.

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