“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”
Last year’s The Maze Runner was a pleasant surprise. Within a world with so many dystopian young-adult novels being adapted into films, it is extremely easy to be forgotten, but the first Maze Runner managed to stand out from that crowded genre. There was a sincere aspect to the project, meaning that it didn’t feel like the generic cash-grab a lot of these types of movies end up being. There was thought put into the world it births and director Wes Ball manages to build a compelling story and mystery around its characters, thanks in part to its uncommonly dark approach. Yes, The Maze Runner was flawed and never even gets close to brushing up against greatness, but it was refreshing and fun, which was more than I could ask for. Now we have the inevitable sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. In this second installment, there is plenty of useless mythology added to the already complex story, more teenagers who have to challenge the status quo, and more shadow governments of evil, manipulative adults trying to control them. Yep! Great fun for young-adults ages 11-14.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials leaves nothing up to the imagination. Unlike its predecessor, everything is given to us face value. It picks up only hours after the first one left off with the few lucky kids who managed to escape the maze being dropped into a remote high-security facility in the middle of the desert. This is where the infamous organization WCKD resides. I remember at the very end of the first film, one of the soldiers who picks up the kids from outside the maze tells them, “Don’t worry. You’re safe now.” I was very confused by that line. Safe from what? The maze? Weren’t they the people who put them into the maze in the first place? I don’t know, but maybe this second film will answer all of my questions….or maybe not.
Many of these YA novels have dense mythologies; enough unless informations to fill its own separate tome. Key word here is useless because that’s all it ends up being and Scorch Trials is packed so full of it that you may even have trouble comprehending it all. In the years I have been watching and reviewing movies, I don’t think I have ever said that bigger is always better, because it’s usually not, but director Wes Ball sure doesn’t know that. Not only is The Scorch Trials longer than its predecessor, but it’s also denser, louder, and a hell of a lot dumber.
I have not read the books so I cannot tell you if this is a problem with the source material or just an issue with the filmmakers, but much of the story and concepts from the first film completely collapse with this attempt. Very little ends up making sense by the end of this film and you’re left scratching your head trying to put it all the pieces together. The motivations, especially from WCKD, don’t make any sense and the entire first film ends up feeling as if it should have never happened. Sure, there are going to be plot holes within these movies and hey, maybe they’ll answer my questions in the third installment that will most definitely come, but as for a second installment and just a movie in general, The Scorch Trials fails miserably.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials does a whole lot to broaden the universe, but does nothing in terms of improving upon it. The characters are written even more 2-dimensionally than the first installment and it lacks the kinetic, surprisingly excellent performances to save it from the lack of quality writing. The Scorch Trials only submits to dystopian routine, lacking the sufficient flair or quality to stand out and become memorable. Did you know it even has zombies in it? Yes, I said zombies….well, they’re not technically zombies, but deranged, mutated, anger fueled, screeching monsters that run really fast and infect you from bites and scratches….so zombies. Thanks, Wes. That’s definitely what we needed.