Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Wes Ball’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials continues the Post Apocalyptic Young Adult adaptation picking up from the escape from the maze in the first film. Now the characters face the outside world and the challenges that brings.
I reviewed the first film back in 2014 and actually quite liked it, that is to say I enjoyed it more than any other Young Adult adaptation I had seen up to that point. It was by no means great but I was engaged enough to watch this sequel and ultimately see how this develops.
Sadly any intrigue I felt when watching the first film is completely eroded by this mess of a sequel. The first film was light on exposition in a good way and kept the mystery in the centre before giving a ham fisted explanation. This films steers away from explanations entirely making me wonder what the point of this entry is at all.
Middle parts of a trilogy are always the toughest as it needs to build on what happens in the first outing without concluding the story so that the third part is still relevant but still have its own identity within the story. That’s not an easy thing to do and many better franchises have failed to deliver this in a way that is satisfying.
The identity of this midsection is that this is one where some people run around a lot between lots of different locations that all look somewhat similar and interact with people who are increasingly insane. There isn’t much plot here other than where the characters need to end up and the tiny revelations that were all heavily implied in the first film anyway.
As such the whole experience is just really dull. Anything remotely interesting happens in the first 15 minutes or so as the audience is made to wonder what is going on in the sinister hospital location but that is quickly cast aside for an infuriating game of cat and mouse played between the kids and the various people after them.
The structure of the film basically has them go to a location to catch their breath for a few minutes before something happens that means they can’t stay so they run onto the next one. It’s a bit like levels in a video game that only exist to make the thing a bit longer to make people feel like they get their money’s worth from the experience. By itself that really wouldn’t bother me if what was presented was entertaining to watch but none of it was. It was one boring sequence after another with a small number that had some merit.
There were some solid moments of tension as people try to survive attacks by the infected former humans but the process is repeated so often that it becomes white noise very quickly. One moment is almost lifted from The Lost World: Jurassic Park and it was done a lot better there.
I have nothing to really say about the character development as there really isn’t any. Dylan O’Brien is in the lead again as Thomas -the only name I can remember without looking it up- but he has nothing to do here other than look confused and run away from whatever is chasing him. The same applies to his companions Minho (Ki Hong Lee), and Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) among others who do little more than form part of the rabble that the film focuses on. There is a passable scene at the end involving Theresa but I had pretty much checked out by then.
Attempts to further the story are brought in by Aidan Gillen’s villainous Jansen, Giancarlo Esposito’s ambiguous Jorge and a short turn by sci-fi royalty Alan Tudyk’s Blondie but the script seems to make too much of an attempt to keep this film light on content so that the third one can have a lot in there. Please don’t tell me that the third one will be split into two, that would not be a good idea for this franchise.
It’s hard to tell if the lack of content can be attributed to the book being full of non events as I haven’t read it. Maybe someone can fill me in on how this story is presented in the books to give an indication of how well the films are doing.
Beyond some scenes that almost work there isn’t really a lot to recommend here. It’s a shame as this franchise had potential as far as I could see and to have it squander itself in the second outing really does a disservice to the strong work done in the first film. Maybe the third outing is going to be wall to wall entertainment that manages to be compelling throughout but I may never find out. I’ll see how I feel at the time.
A very dull viewing experience from start to finish and a disappointing follow up to what was a promising start to the franchise.
Beyond some reasonably entertaining set piece moments the structure of going from place to place to just run away from whatever dangers are found gets really tiresome almost immediately. There is no time spent reflecting on the events or developing any of the characters so it becomes impossible to be invested in anything that is going on.
The lack of plot really does a disservice to the slightly interesting ideas pioneered in the first film as this outing seems to just kill time until the final film with very little of note going on.
There’s nothing really worth recommending here as the whole thing drags on through a plotless landscape of mediocrity before it finally grants the audience member the mercy of being able to go home.