Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 11 min.

Release Date: September 18th, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Wes Ball Actors: Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Aidan Gillen, Barry Pepper, Alan Tudyk

 


 

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t’s difficult not to compare “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” to the numerous sources from which it clearly derives inspiration – and sometimes uncanny similarities. The persecuted innocents and manipulative oppressors parallel the protagonist and antagonist dynamics present in both “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” while the unorthodox and immoral methods of finding a cure for a deadly plague closely mimic a variety of modern zombie flicks. Even a large segment of imagery involving a frenzied escape from crackling undead monstrosities through dilapidated buildings bears a striking resemblance to the award-winning video game “The Last of Us.” But to its credit (despite the majority of “The Scorch Trials” echoing elements of other entities), the suspense, adventure, and agreeable cast of quick-witted youths instill the project with plenty of energy and excitement.

After being rescued from their labyrinthine prison, Glade members Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Frypan (Dexter Darden), and Winston (Alexander Flores) are detained at an enormous way station in the desert run by the mysterious Mr. Janson (Aidan Gillen). Though promised safety and a chance at a fresh start, Thomas senses danger, and his suspicions are confirmed with the aid of Aris (Jacob Lofland), a former member of another maze experiment. Uncovering shocking facts about the odious W.C.K.D. organization, Thomas and his stalwart gang of survivors flees the installation and attempt to cross the Scorch, a treacherous stretch of desert comprising unimaginable new threats.

Perhaps hoping to emulate the iconic nature of the Statue of Liberty’s appearance in “Planet of the Apes,” the Golden Gate Bridge is shown as a towering, crumbling structure protruding from endless tracts of sand. But other geography makes far less sense, including a sequence in which Thomas and new ally Brenda (Rosa Salazar) drop down an elevator shaft and then descend deeper into a sewer system, only to appear at the end of a tunnel that overlooks the side of a skyscraper. It’s as if the network of underground passages was constructed somewhere in the middle of a multi-story building. But all of the locations – most swiped straight from the set designs of “The Walking Dead” – are merely complex stages for action and adventure, which the film does far better than its approach to storytelling or mystery.

In fact, the mysteries only compound; it seems that all the answers are being saved for the final chapter alone (which means there could be a long, long wait to come, considering how many books James Dashner penned). Instead of giving audiences a glimpse or two into the inner workings of the experiments – or even a relevancy to the events of the first film – this middle segment is basically content connecting the introduction of the roles with the finale. Momentary refuge from an evil organization’s human-harvesting scheme or the hardships imposed by memory-wiped gladiatorial games serves as filler before the next set of harrowing obstacles. This pervasive feeling of “out of the frying pan and into the fire” is handled quite nicely by returning director Wes Ball, who keeps the pacing tight and the paranoia high. That atmosphere, however, is incredibly similar to “The Walking Dead”; the use of an incurable virus, abandoned metropolises, and ultra-aggressive zombies is also unmistakably reminiscent of “28 Days Later.”

Unfortunately, by the end, there are still too many unanswered questions. And explanations that are known by the lead characters go specifically un-discussed, just to string audiences along. At least the young adult heroes aren’t thrust into another maze or forced to undergo additional death-defying tribulations solely to produce extra adrenaline (or alien enzymes) to manipulate blood pressure and cardiac output. Or are they?

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10