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Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Review

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Review

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Directed by: Wes Ball

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aidan Gillen. Patricia Clarkson

Last year’s The Maze Runner pretty much surprised everyone by managing to be a dystopian hit without having Divergent or The Hunger Games in its title. The result was a fairly solid, if slightly underwhelming, YA adaptation, never quite scaling the heights of its forebears, but a hit nonetheless. Thus is the way, almost exactly a year after the first film hit our screens, the second installment of James Dashner’s best selling series, The Scorch Trials, hits cinemas this week, with the end result playing out pretty much exactly like the first.

The story picks up moments after The Maze Runner ended, with Thomas (O’Brien) and his fellow ‘Gladers’ having survived the Maze Trials (still no explanation for the maze’s purpose…), now being transported through the scorched wastes of Earth to a high tech facility operated by the mysterious Janson (a quintessentially shifty Aiden Gillen). There, Thomas and his friends soon realize that something dastardly is going on at their new digs, with Janson being revealed to be working with the wickedly WCKD and Dr. Paige.

After a harried escape, the group find themselves out in the ‘scorch’, travelling across the vast crumbling ruins and desert wastelands of the old world in search of the Right Arm, a resistance group with the sole aim of bringing down the WCKD. But it isn’t just the organisation our intrepid group have to worry about, as they also have to contend with the ‘Cranks’ – mutated, zombiefied human beings who have been transformed due to their exposure to the vaguely explained Flare virus.maze-runner-scorch-trials-01For what it is, the film is designed and put together incredibly well. Returning director Wes Ball once again does a highly efficient job behind the camera, keeping the pace flowing and conducting the various action sequences with flair and confidence. Production designer Daniel T. Dorrance and the visual effects team should also be commended for doing an impressive job at bringing Dashner’s desert ravaged world and post apocalyptic environment to life. In fact, the design is pretty much flawless.

The action quota is also upped this time around, with plenty more running, shooting, torture, drunken hallucinations and zombies than most YA films would even dare to throw in. For fans of the original, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The film moves along at a brisk pace, rarely slowing, and a sequence involving the Cranks chasing two of our heroes across toppled skyscrapers is effectively tense.

However, despite its mildly entertaining action set pieces, the film is flimsy on ideas, with a script just as vague as its characters. It’s understandable that the filmmakers want to draw out the series’ mystery as long as possible, but almost all the characters are so ambiguous and loose in their answers to the point of frustration. Indeed it feels like the filmmakers are so aware of the holes in Dashner’s mythology that at times it feels like they’re struggling to come to grips with the central concepts themselves.maze-runner-scorch-trials-02Watching Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is like watching a tribute of all the favourite pop culture science fiction things you enjoyed as teenagers, which, if you’re into that sort of thing, is not entirely bad. If you’re searching for something that puts a new spin on old tropes, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Everything within this series feels like it was stripped and mined from other sources simply to appeal to its demographic; post apocalyptic YA setting? Check. Zombies? Check. Shady organization with a leader dressed all in white? Check. This familiarity will no doubt hurt the longevity of the series in years to come, as it’s left by the wayside in favour of its far more successful counterparts.

When it comes to the cast, they’re pretty much on par as before. Dylan O’Brien once again does his usual stoic hero glare, while the rest of the young cast struggle to make any kind of impact with their underdeveloped roles. Kaya Scodelario, horrifically short changed last time around, is at least given something to do, but once again, is still left wanting by a script that is heavy on plot yet wholly lacking in any form of character development.

While The Maze Runner series has still yet to ignite, The Scorch Trials is a mildly entertaining effort that makes for a nice appetizer to Katniss’ return come November.

★★★

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