Review: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

I’ll be the first to say 2014’s The Maze Runner surprised me. It’s a film based on James Dashner’s YA novel about a group of memory-wiped kids, living in the middle of a maze that’s constantly changing. Apparently I wasn’t the only one that liked it, Maze Runner twist and turned it’s way to $304 million worldwide.

Almost a year later (to the date), director Wes Ball is back with an adaption of Dashner’s second book, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

Yay, a sequel.

Taking a page out of Halloween II, The Scorch Trials picks up right where the first movie ended – the survivors of the maze, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) are being swiftly hilicoptered away by a group of men dressed like Navy Seals or Hydra agents. It’s hard to tell.

Thomas and his fellow “Gladers” are lead into a secure facility ran by a man named Janson (Aidan Gillen), where they learn they weren’t the only maze participants.  Thomas and the group are told the facility isn’t the kids final stop, it’s merely a holding station until they can be transported to safe place.  A very skeptical Thomas does some spying and learns the facility is actually run by WCKD (World Catastrophe Killzone Department) and none of the kids are safe.

The group breaks out of the building and head into the deserted wasteland outside known as “The Scorch”. Since the kids had their memories wiped, they have no idea what world awaits them outside. The barren landscape, think Oblivion but with a lot more sand the lack of food and water aren’t the only problems facing the group. The Scorch is crawling with zombie-like creatures that screech and look like they have a mouthful of black licorice. These aren’t the slow Walking Dead zombies, they’re the fast 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead type of zombies – the kind that make you wish you did more cardio before the zombie apocalypse.

On the run, The Gladers try to survive the elements, avoid Janson and his WCKD army, and hopefully find help.

The Scorch Trials can be best described as a zombie film book-ended by a YA dystopian drama. There are parts of Thomas and his friend’s journey that are interesting but most of it is cloned from other dystopian films we’ve seen in the past five years. There’s zombies, wastelands, a resistance group, harsh weather, and an evil government that thinks it’s totally cool to kill kids. They could easily change the film’s title to Maze Runner 2: The Best of Dystopian Futures.

The most interesting part, that’s not Barry Pepper’s beard, is they idea of killing off the future (the kids) to save the present. Like most YA novel adaptations, they don’t spend enough time exploring that idea or any other concepts that don’t involve running and teenage angst.

Scorch Trials takes a page out of The Hunger Games playbook and surrounded their young cast with talented actors. Game of Thrones vets Aidan Gillen and Nathalie Emmanuel have supporting roles along with Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Alan Tudyk, Barry Pepper, and Lili Taylor.

There’s a story Scorch Trials attempt to tell, but the plot doesn’t sit with the characters, besides Thomas, long enough to create any emotional connection. It’s basically two hours of Thomas running from or running to something. The other kids might as well be zombies or walls in a maze.

That’s not to say The Scorch Trials isn’t entertaining. If you love YA movies and post apocalyptic zombie movies, there’s something here for you. There’s a scene that sums up the entire film in 3 minutes. It involves Thomas and his companion getting separated from the group and finding themselves in the underground tunnels. Of course the worst of the black licorice mouthed zombies live in those tunnels. They run into a pack of zombies and have to an escape. The entire sequence is as predictable as anything we’ve seen in a dozen zombie shows and movies, has a good jump scare, and is well directed.

That’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials in a nutshell – a predictable movie that doesn’t try anything new, but made well enough to be enjoyable entertainment for all age groups.

Grade: B-