The Maze Runner offers fascinating peek into how Wes Ball designed that epic maze

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Apr 29, 2019, 7:20 AM EDT (Updated)

We had our doubts about the umpteenth young adult sci-fi dystopia in The Maze Runner, but that first trailer actually piqued our interest — and here’s how director Wes Ball made it look so darn cool.

Ball, who became a hot commodity based on his gorgeous short film Ruin, brought his unique visual style to his adaptation of James Dashner’s popular series of novels. Considering he’d already fleshed out his signature style of urban decay, it was a no-brainer to bring those sensibilities to The Maze Runner.

Even before he formally accepted the directing gig, he dug into his Ruin concept art for inspiration to make the film “dark, edgy and messy.” Ball chatted with Entertainment Weekly about the project and showed off some of his stunning concept art — including his full sketch of the massive, deadly maze.

Though he tried to stay as loyal as possible to Dashner’s descriptions, Ball said he was forced to make a few tweaks to ensure the maze looked as awesome as possible:

“James had described it as basically a bunch of boxes arranged like a square. I had this idea that I thought was really cool of almost mirroring a clock that would essentially count down … In the books he says they’re 400 feet. When I started doing my pre-vis stuff, I could design walls that were 400 feet, but what I found was, if they were 400 feet, you couldn’t fit them in the frame. It wasn’t an interesting shot. We ended up in that zone of 100 to 150 feet, which felt massive enough that you felt like you were in a prison, but they weren’t so big that it was like we were looking at concrete the whole movie.”

Ball said he visualized the maze in, essentially, three phases — the first one we’ll see in the massive, overgrown concrete areas that surround the boys trapped in the Glade. Once you go deeper, you reach the metal mechanisms of the maze itself. The last phase? the furthest edges, where you “really find the sci-fi of the maze.” Yeah, we’re intrigued.

Though the mid-budget flick is obviously forced to employ a fair bit of CGI to make the maze happen (I mean, you can’t actually build a maze that big, as cool as it’d be), but Ball went for practical effects whenever possible. The biggest example: They built a full-sized version of the Glade on a field in Baton Rouge, La., with huts and all to make the world feel as authentic as possible.

The Maze Runner opens Sept. 19. While we wait, see if you can find your way out below.

(Via Entertainment Weekly)