Maze Runner sequel disappoints expectations

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I have enjoyed the occasional Zombie film.

My faviourites include:

  • World War Z (2013) where Brad Pit investigates a zombie infestation threatening the world and infects himself with the virus to pass unnoticed through the crowd into the essential lab to retrieve the cure.
  • Warm Bodies (also 2013) which has a "Romeo and Juliet" style forbidden romance between a good hearted Zombie and the daughter of the general attempting to protect human-kind from the zombies.
  • The Resident Evil series (produced from 2002-2007), where the evil umbrella corporation accidentally releases a virus which infects human-kind and one genetically engineered immune called "Alice" battles her way to the heart of the mystery - several times!

Those films have their own zombie related premise which is an integral part of the plot. Resident Evil is also a gaming adaption and I have a secret fondness for gaming adaptions.


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But please not in Maze Runner...

A “virus” had been mentioned in the first Maze Runner movie, however, a viruses could cause disease and death, not zombie mutations.

I was very disappointed when the lights were switched on in an abandoned building and zombies erupt from all corners in Maze Runner: the scorch trials 2015. The movie went from fascinating me with the youth's athletic skills, lightening reflexes and ability to face super-human challenges - to being visually confusing and slightly ho-hum.

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The original Maze Runner fascinated with its mystery

The original Maze Runner (directed by Wes Ball) released in 2014 had a unique premise and a number of mysteries to solve. Throughout the film we found out who the boys were, how they had survived in the glade and what they had made of the situation.

We were thrilled as Thomas joined the fast runners and began to unravel the cypher of the maze. Our minds moved onto questions regarding what the maze was and who had made it. The dangerous creatures turned out to be mechanical and a vaccine gave some boys immunity from the disease that infected anyone injected/stung by the maze creatures.

The boys then escaped from the maze and the general impression was that the group with the evocative acronym WCKD had been experimenting on them like rats in a psychology lab.

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Behaviourist Psychology premise

The maze appeared to echo B.F. Skinner’s behaviourist experiments where a rats’ intelligence was gauged by how fast they managed to learn and navigate a maze.

Skinner also studied how the rats reacted to reward and punishment when pressing levers in their cages. Food was used as a reward and a discomfort such as a mild electric shock was used as punishment.

Following the analogy of Skinner’s experiments, Thomas and some of the other boys who escaped the maze would be the most intelligent, fastest and highly evolved of the subjects. The film closed giving the impression that the boys had done well and that even harder tests would be applied to test their skills.

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The Second Maze Runner did not deliver

Hence, I went to see the second installment in the Maze Runner series with high expectations. These elite athletes who had survived the glade and decoded the maze would be facing their next challenge – apparently named “the scorch trials”.

The film opened with a jarring sense of incongruity as the youth were apparently in some sort of lock-up. The lock-up was being packaged as a safe-house, but that idea was too suspicious to be sustained for very long.

And for some unexplained reason – there had been any number of mazes!

Another affront to my internal radar was the fact that some of the youths had been liberated from the other mazes without solving their puzzles and conquering their mazes.

Moreover, WCKD were being referred to openly as “wicked” without any explanation of the acronym or how management had decided to catergorise them as bad.

It does not seem like another test.

The boys escape lock-up. However, instead of the next level of challenge being cleverly orchestrated by WCKD, it appears to merely be an abandoned, destroyed city. The land has become desert and there is not a plant or drop of water to be seen.

Buildings lean at improbable angles, and the children admittedly do perform leaps only gaming avartars can accomplish; but generally, this landscape appeared to be left over and forgotten, not engineered to challenge.

Once again I am puzzled. A virus could conceivably kill plants and render a country desert, but what kind of virus can knock building down? I’m speculating nuclear disaster while watching the movies– but if I had read the books, I might know something about a solar flare.

The scene where the lightening storm pursues the youths is exciting and a little what I expected from my conception of the movie’s premise. The controllers (or experimenters) may have loosed electricity upon the subjects.

It is also amazingly populated.

Another thing that offends my internal radar is how easily so many people move and live in this “impossible” landscape.

  • Janson and a team from WCKD climb into some sort of light aircraft and simply fly after the youths.
  • Zombies crawl around in abandoned buildings and grow in disused sewerage systems.
  • Drugged-out survivors party in one area, while gangsters profiteer in another.
  • Rebels hide in the mountains and apparently some half descend to meet the youths.

Conclusion:

So I left the cinema with the feeling that this was a movie one had to watch if one wanted to follow the plot from the first movie to the end of the series.

However, the movie definitely had ‘sequelitus’. Yeah, that’s my term for the virus which used to render the second movie inferior to the first movie everyone had enjoyed.

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