Movie Reviews: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (Spoiler Free)
I refrain from any spoilers not present in the trailer, although I may discuss the film of which this is a sequel of (though, if you haven't seen the first one, I'm not sure why you're reading this although I appreciate the curiosity nevertheless).
I gotta say I enjoyed it, although not nearly as much as I enjoyed the first film. While the first film is largely based on layers and layers of mystery and revelations (especially with the polarizing ending which throws everything back up into question once more), this film focuses far more on a journey from A to Z while hitting all the inbetween letter destinations along the way. It's the same actors and actresses reprising their roles and the story takes off immediately from the ending of the first film. However, the fact that this was written more as a young adult book originally seems to be more obvious with this film which doesn't seem to do much with the ending potential of the previous film.
The Plot & Synopsis
After the Gladers get out of the maze, they're picked up by some kind of organization that opposes WCKD (those who created the maze and stuck the kids in). They encounter other kids from other mazes. Soon enough, something happen that causes the Gladers to leave their sanctuary, forcing them to go on a long trek to join up with others that share their views. Along the way, they see the desolation they were told about, encounter the Cranks (people infected by the Flare virus), as well as unaffiliated gangs all while WCKD continues to pursue them.
While the physical journey is very well represented, it also explores a lot into Thomas and his ability as a leader. Characters are quiet about their opinions in regards to Thomas's direction, but there is always unrest and you can see him struggling with every bump in the road.
The set pieces are nice, if unimpressive. I read somewhere that this film uses a lot of cliches but they keep coming at an extremely quick pace you just happen to ignore it. I largely agree with that.
Casting and Performance
For the most part, everyone is reprising their role. They did well for the first time around, so I figure I'll talk more about the new additions and some quirks that did and did not transfer well this entry.
Two new major additions (including a smaller role) do a fantastic job of capturing the camera. First, we're introduced to Aiden Gillen (who played Petyr Baelish/Littlefinger in the very celebrated Game of Thrones show on HBO) as Janson who's in charge of the organization that takes the boys away from the maze. His character is a bit of a one note unit, but you get the genuine feeling that Gillen is enjoying his role (especially since his GoT character literally stands and talks without ever getting his hands dirty). Alan Tudyk plays the owner of a club/rave but doesn't really get to do much else.
Still, Giancarlo Esposito owns the scene whenever he's about. Reprising the same commanding presence he showed as Gus Fring in Breaking Bad, he unfortunately doesn't get as much screen time as he should, but with any luck we'll see more of him in the sequel.
A mentioned before, Thomas's face is both hilarious and revealing. Played by Dylan O'Brien, Thomas's face reveals a lot about his character, their journey, and so much of his emotions. Often I feel his emotions are reflective upon the audience's interaction.
While I'm not linking a picture of them, the Cranks are the individuals who have been completely taken by the Flare. They're zombies, the fast kind and are a bit unnerving. They're not necessarily a unique form of zombies in regards to other forms of media although they bare a strong resemblance to the Infected in the video game The Last of Us, where humans are infected and possessed by fungal spores that eventually mature and make their host one with the environment. There's some subtlety in their designs that's elaborated on in a scene much later on in the film that discusses their appearance, specifically their eyes. The book might go into more detail on it, but it's a nifty nugget I can appreciate in retrospect.
There's profanity and some violence. That's literally it. There's nothing sexual and a little bit of scare tactics you might expect from your run of the mill zombie flick.
Page to Screen?
If you read my Page to Screen of The Maze Runner (where I discuss the adaptation process of the book to the movie, including differences, performances, visuals, and so forth), you'll realize that I greatly enjoyed the film but absolutely hated the book. In fact, the book spoiled me in a way that I refuse to read any more books of the series, choosing instead to watch the films as they come out. As things stand after seeing this film, it hasn't changed my mind.
This film is fine. There's nothing seriously wrong with it, not by a long shot, but I don't really recall anything that really stood out to me as original or fantastically done. As mentioned before, there are going to be tons of scenes that you've seen elsewhere with different set pieces and actors, but you'll probably recognize them nonetheless. Character deaths are usually unimpressive because they're predictable, and a few of the characters themselves are actually pretty dull (this film still doesn't explain why Theresa was put into the maze, nor why she was the only girl here although they say some of the other mazes have different demographics a-la Fallout-style).
If I was younger, I might have a better chance of liking this film (as I also said with the book for the first film). I wasn't impressed, which in and of itself is not bad, it's certainly not good after I thoroughly enjoyed the first film and looked forward to learning more about the secrets the story seemed to promise. Not much of anything was really explained or elaborated on, aside from why the kids are in the mazes and what WCKD is aiming to do. There's a lot of hot air that's not unpleasant to watch, but left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied after leaving the theater.
Should you see it in theaters? Sure, if you really enjoyed the first film and aren't as critical of films as I am (which is entirely possible). Otherwise, I could give it a strong recommendation for a 'Red Box Night' or catching it on Netflix. I shrug my shoulders at you, Scorch Trials.
- Lesser sequel to The Maze Runner
- Strong performance by the cast
- Fast-paced and filled with action
- Lots of teen-focused dialogue
- Storyline is unimpressive and doesn't quite live up to the story hinted at in the first film (which is more of a complaint about the book series but still)