Starring Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Sangster, Barry Pepper
Directed by Wes Ball
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
In this age in which large studios are afraid to release anything unless they are certain that it has franchise potential, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a classic example of how the desperation to cash in with the other successful films on the market can really kill the film.
What made the first Maze Runner film so effective was that we really got to feel a sense of community. We got to know the small group of characters and the isolated world in which they live without anything to hinder it. We don’t know anything about the rest of the world outside the maze or become over-encumbered with details. All we know is that we’re watching the day-to-day lives of people trying to adjust to a situation of which they are as clueless as the audience.
With the sequel that’s all lost. From the opening moments, when we see hundreds if not thousands of kids who were also apparently subjected to mazes, we know that the sense of feeling as though we were a part of the small world that the first film established is gone. Before long it deteriorates into yet another Hunger Games style “unite the people to fight the oppressive government regime” flick. Apparently that has become part of the required checklist for YA adaptations. What else can we add to that list? Let’s see…
- Protagonist delivers rousing speech to the masses, convincing them to fight on his side? Check.
- Wandering though a post-apocalyptic wasteland and being saddened by all the destruction? Check.
- Meeting another resistance faction and discovering that they share the same goals? Check.
- Discovering that those in authority are evil? Check.
- Evil, two-dimensional figure of authority who wants to rule? Check.
- A scene where the villains kill civilians to emphasize how evil they are? Check.
It seems like they chucked all the young adult tropes into a blender, and an incoherent, jumbled mess is the unfortunate end result. I mean, who cares about originality when you have audience expectations to appease?
Oh, and did I mention that there are zombies this time? Yup… ugly, snarling, flesh-eating zombies. A lot of them, too. Because in a film so starved of originality and so desperate to add in as many common popular elements as possible, why not? Zombies are huge right now, right? So they should give the movie more appeal, right? They seem to be forgetting that what made the Grievers from the first film so memorable was that they were original, which seems to be something of a dirty word round these parts.
Dylan O’Brien returns as protagonist Thomas, but rather than having any emotional investment in him as we did before (i.e., we wanted to know who he was and how his journey would end), he now simply appears to be just there. His motivations are to escape, then to raise an army or something, but there’s now so much going on that it becomes impossible to care.
The budget’s also been increased. Big time. We have skyscrapers falling, a massive battle sequence, and even spaceships. This “Hell, if it can be used in the trailer, throw it in” mentality pretty much cuts anything of substance happening off at the knees. Not good for a movie with the word “runner” in the title.
With the young adult craze now entering its twilight (sorry), Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is bound to be remembered as the film that helped it die. Unlike its predecessor, which actually bought some much needed originality to the genre, this is such a by the numbers rehash of all the other YA films that after watching it, it will simply become a blur in your memory where you won’t be able to distinguish it from them. You’ll be thinking that the characters were actually from The Hunger Games or Divergent, and the stories from each film will become indistinguishable. I hope that studio executives don’t read this review as that will probably inspire them to make a crossover.
This could very well be the worst sequel of the year. If the first Maze Runner was a nice breath of fresh air in the YA craze, then The Scorch Trials is a big, loud fart from someone who’s been eating burritos.