For author James Dashner, 2009's The Maze Runner was only the beginning, as his hugely popular YA dystopian novel — about a mysterious maze and its unwilling inhabitants — launched two sequels, 2010's The Scorch Trials and 2011's The Death Cure, and one prequel, 2012's The Kill Order.
20th Century Fox, which produced the movie adaptation of the first book, is betting big on Dashner's vision, as pre-production on sequel The Scorch Trials is currently underway in New Mexico, two weeks before The Maze Runner hits theaters.
"We've got stages, we've got crews coming in, Dylan [O'Brien] will be back in a few weeks, we're building sets, and the script is being written," The Maze Runner director Wes Ball told BuzzFeed. "It's a bit of a race this time because we're cautiously optimistic, but we're feeling excited we're about to do something that's way more sophisticated, way more grown up, and really set up a saga here."
In the aftermath of The Hunger Games' global success, many studios have turned to young adult books in the hopes of discovering the next great box office franchise, but that's easier said than done — as Warner Bros (2013's Beautiful Creatures), Screen Gems (2013's The Mortal Instruments), and The Weinstein Company (2014's Vampire Academy) can attest.
To further stoke interest in a sequel, the final act of The Maze Runner hews incredibly closely to the book, leaving many important questions unanswered. And doing so was a very deliberate choice, according to the film's director.
"It's a ballsy ending, man, we don't answer everything — but that's the book," said Ball. "Hopefully, they'll want the next one because we pick up exactly where we left off; you could really watch the movies back to back and it would be one long story."