Besides superheroes, one of the most consistently successful genres of film in the past few years has been the Young Adult novel adaptation. Series like Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Divergent have all become huge successes at the box office. Last year, a new franchise stepped into the movie world in the form of the Maze Runner, and one year later we have the followup entitled “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.”
In the last installment, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) was the leader of a group of young people who found themselves in a deadly maze that tested their survival skills. Upon escape, they learned the world outside had gone to hell and a lot of humanity has been wiped out by a deadly virus, and that they are a special type of person who has immunity to the disease. When this installment starts off, Thomas and the other maze survivors have been taken to a facility to help them recover, where they meet survivors from other mazes. The group soon discovers that the leader of the facility works for WCKD, the organization which put them in the maze in the first place and has dubious intentions for them. Thus, they head off into the Scorch where they must track down a resistance to fight against the mad scientists.
The movie suffers from a condition I like to call “Middle Chapter Syndrome”. This is when I go into a movie and even without having it spoiled know that certain plot points set up will not be resolved by virtue of the fact there’s still one more book left to adapt. I just knew the cure for the virus would not be found in this film. I just knew that the final showdown with WCKD would not occur in this movie. While there is tension in regards to the fact that main characters in the group are capable of being picked off, for the most part, I was thinking to myself “These plot points will not be answered until the next film”, which was indirectly robbing the movie of tension.
Ironically, for a film that is primarily set in a blazing desert and city ruins, an issue that plagues a good portion of the final product is the fact a lot of the action sequences take place in darkened areas making it hard to concentrate on what is going on in the scenes. I might be able to chalk this up to the fact that it seems like director Wes Ball is going for more of a horror film vibe this time around, as a good part of the plot involves people who have become zombie-like in nature due to long-term exposure to the virus. Even still, being able to see the action more visibly would’ve helped this film significantly.
The cast, however, performs their parts well. Dylan O’Brien continues to do a good job as Thomas, and Kaya Scodelario as Teresa did have him questioning where her loyalties lied throughout the movie. There were some character actors showing up in supporting roles who caught me off guard by being in this movie, namely Alan Tudyk as a member of WCKD who the group interrogates. The setting of the film looks convincing, even if it feels like the city from “Divergent” just covered in sand.
All in all, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” does what it needs to do, while being only an OK film. The plot serves mainly as setup for the final chapter (which to my surprise seems like it will not be split into two parts). For anyone looking to satisfy their YA adaptation fill before the final “Hunger Games” comes out in two months, this is worth a matinee showing. I give the movie 3 out of 5.