By: Daley Wilhelm
I’ve read the books, I will snobbishly inform readers, but I found that the books don’t matter. The Maze Runner films have established themselves as an entity separate from the confusing, trying-too-hard-to-be-edgy YA novels that they’re based on.
The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is just the right amount of edgy, between close calls, firefights, and running off buildings. The overtly complicated plot is shoe-horned in between these high octane scenes, revealing that Thomas and the survivors of the first movie are in much bigger trouble than ever before. Their would-be rescuers are just another arm of W.I.C.K.E.D., the organization brutally experimenting on groups of teenagers. Their ultimate goal is to find a cure for the horrible, zombie-like virus called the Flare that has swept the world after massive sun flares scorched most of the earth to ruin. The closest thing they have to a cure is in the blood of the teens they’ve tortured, which the teens in question haven’t exactly volunteered for.
Thus there’s running, lots of running and escaping, but unfortunately never much progress.
From the start of the film, I noticed that it was pretty much expected that the viewer knew the miraculous rescue that ended the first film was too good to be true. In fact, production didn’t try at all to hide that the emaciated, PTSD-laden main characters were not safe at all. The font used to label walls of the infamous maze was the same in the hallways of the sanctuary/stronghold that they were brought to in the sequel.
While I could (maybe) forgive this, I found a strange sense of deja vu throughout the surprisingly long movie that might just reflect that lazy writing associated with YA novels. The group would run, escape, get somewhere only to be forced to leave in the most dramatic, heart-pounding way. Rinse and repeat. The unsurprising repetition took away from the impact of said edge of your seat chase scenes. The saving grace of this was that the chase scenes were visually enrapturing. From dark, nightmare tunnels to the hauntingly stark light of a crumbling city, The Scorch Trials managed to make a believable, beautiful apocalypse.
So the action was top-notch, the world-building concise in the face of a concept as confusing as cure-through-tortured-teens, and the acting was great. Dylan O’Brien portrayed Thomas as just the right amount of paranoid and desperate, not an action hero, but a scared kid trying his best. He even managed to make the blasé, obligatory romances thrown his way seem convincing.
Did the movie have time for these weird, stilted moments where Thomas and Brenda (Rosa Salazar) would look at each other for extended amounts of time? I didn’t think so. With a two hour run time, The Scorch Trials had several chances near the end to close the curtain on the plight of these really, really tired kids. It just kept going and going, until like every good action film, it ended with a hell of a bang. I got a little tired of waiting for this big bang, glancing away from the show stealing Minho (Ki Hong Lee) to see how long I’d been sitting in a near-empty theatre.
Like I said, I can forgive poor font choices. I can watch Dylan O’Brien run, agonize over ethics, and run some more for two hours. I can enjoy the pseudo-science slipped into the plot. What I can’t deal with is flat characters. Unless someone was talking to Thomas, characters faded far, far into the background. Brenda became the most detailed character after Thomas purely because she was constantly saving him from danger. Thomas’ own best friends’ lines slowly filtered out until they were there purely to react to whatever Thomas was saying.
This made the big bang ending go out with a fizzle. I’d stopped worrying about anyone but Thomas because Thomas had all the lines. Overall, I genuinely enjoyed each heart-stopping second of The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials if only because it surpassed the books, the first film, and my expectations entirely.
- aesthetically awesome
- top-notch action
- So very long
- Forced romance
- No focus on characters other than the main one