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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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