REVIEW — “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials offers enough thrilling action sequences, improved special effects, and a few solid performances to make this worth renting for those that are curious about it.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials focuses on the continuing adventures of Thomas and the other survivors of the Maze, which are thrust into more peril because of their rescuers’ ulterior motives. As they struggle to survive zombies, W.C.K.D. soldiers, and both lightning and sand storms, they find out more about Thomas’ past and W.C.K.D. While the lightning and sand storm effects are okay, the sequences themselves are poorly handled. For example, the sand storm starts, which prompts the protagonists to say that they need to find shelter. After a jump cut to the next morning, the protagonists are safely under a shelter. This prevents the audience from enjoying the mounting suspense of watching the characters fight against the sand storm in order to find their way to safety.
T.S. Nowlin, who co-wrote the original, adapted James Dashner’s second Maze Runner novel, The Scorch Trials, into a lackluster screenplay that suffers from all of the following: stilted character development, gaping plot holes, and repetitive dialogue. The vast majority of the side characters are too static to be interesting or worth caring about. Despite the fact that two characters are killed dramatically, both characters are so poorly developed that their death leaves the audience hollow, rather than upset. Nowlin’s screenplay relies too much on a walking plot device, a teenage boy named Aris. In the first act, Aris is developed minimally as he helps the protagonists escape a facility, but he does not contribute to the film again until he is is needed for a convenient plot point, wherein he helps the survivors get taken to the Right Hand.
Several of the plot holes in this film are incredibly stupid. For example, Thomas and Aris break into a top-secret lab, which clearly has a camera in it, but none of the security guards see them on the monitor or alert anyone to go stop them. Similarly, the zombies are able to pursue Thomas and Brenda, portrayed decently by Rosa Slazar, into daylight and into a skyscraper. This scene ultimately ends with a choppy sequence that echoes The Lost World: Jurassic Park and The Day After Tomorrow; a character struggles to get off of cracking glass before it is too late. Another significant plot hole is that Thomas goes into the vents with Aris twice, but he is able to lead the way for his comrades to help them escape. These plot holes are mildly distracting during the best action scenes, but overwhelmingly obvious in the dull lull in pacing that occurs in between the second and third act.
Throughout most of this film, the dialogue is far too repetitive and generic. Nearly every scene features the protagonists saying countless variations of, “Go! We need to go!” In fact, a plethora of the dialogue is merely a clunky way to set up and push the action forward. Much of the rest of the dialogue is spent on exposition that only partially explains the mythology of this series, leaving things open for the third installment, The Death Cure.
The zombies in this film are admittedly more grotesque than those featured in World War Z, but they are not scary. Like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead (2004) and World War Z, the zombies in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials are able to sprint. Rather than providing a combination of lingering and swift shots during the zombie sequences, Ball keeps every shot swift, which prevents terror from building up within the audience. Prior to the zombie sequences, audiences have to deal with inept and inefficient jump scares. Hence, the zombies add no horror or anything of merit.
With all of this in mind, what makes Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials better than the original is Thomas’ character development, Dylan O’Brian’s excellent performance, and the thrilling action sequences. The opening sequence features Thomas’ only memory of his mother, in which she gives him up to W.C.K.D. This sets up Thomas’ character journey, which involves struggling with his past, which he still does not fully remember, and trying to protect his friends. Dylan O’Brian’s performance captures the determination to survive and, due to the death of his comrades and friends, the suffering that he experiences. Between the further character development and strong performance, Thomas is the most captivating character in this film. Other actors that provided solid work include: Lili Taylor, who portrays Mary Cooper; Kaya Scodelario, who portrays Teresa; Ki Hong Lee, who portrays Minho; and Barry Pepper, who portrays Vince. These are the few characters that are developed enough to be likeable and somewhat memorable.
The scope and duration of the action sequences is far greater than anything in The Maze Runner. Thanks to a bigger budget, the special effects are far more convincing, which helps sustain the tension during each chase sequence; during the original, the Grievers looked too fake for them to be scary or a worthy antagonist. What makes the vast majority of the action sequences work is their relentlessly swift pace, which is enjoyable enough to make most of this film’s flaws forgivable. At least, this film was a 3 star film until the thirty minute lull in between acts two and three. Best of all, once the protagonists reach the Right Hand, the mythology of the series is deepened and it builds up perfectly to its familiar, but visually arresting final battle.
In spite of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’ many flaws, a few solid performances, improved special effects, and suspenseful action sequences make this worth renting for those that are curious about it. As for those who are fans of the book and first film, this film should provide more than enough action to thrill this target audience.
Are you interested in seeing Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials? If you have seen it, what did you think and why?
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