Will Poulter in The Maze Runner.

The maze in the title of The Maze Runner is a fun spectacle full of shifting walls and weird spider robots. When the movie is in the maze, it is good. When it’s out of the maze, it stinks.

Dylan O’Brien plays Thomas, a teenager who is placed in a camp surrounded by a large, constantly shifting maze. The camp is inhabited by other teens, including Alby (Aml Ameen), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Gally (Will Poulter). None of them have any idea why they were put there, and they don’t know how to escape, so they send a squad of “runners” into the maze to map it out and search its outer reaches. The searches are fruitless—until the mysterious Thomas takes charge and makes things happen.

The mystery of the maze is intriguing, but the payoff is blah. The Lord of the Flies-style drama between the leads is typical, boring stuff. I liked the design of the maze, which turns out to be the film’s most interesting character. (Second place goes to Poulter’s Gally; the actor is a long way from the comic territory he staked out in We’re the Millers.) Too bad the rest of the movie feels like a patchwork of many films we’ve already seen before.

The Maze Runner is playing in a variety of formats at theaters across the valley.