10 Sep 2015
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The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, blazing hot or lukewarm?

By Catherine Knowles

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials picks up where the first film left off and sees our protagonist leading his pack of youths through a desert filled with flesh-eating zombies and the occasional lightning storm in search for answers, allies, and a way out.

Based off James Dashner’s novel of the same name, The Scorch Trials is a dystopian, science-fiction action film directed by Wes Ball, who was also at the helm of the first instalment.

We follow the group of Gladers, made up of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario).

Unleashed into the world outside the maze, the Gladers battle against the oppressive WCKD corporation, try to figure out what the heck is going on, and struggle to stay alive in a world ravaged by heat and disease.

As they search for the elusive Right Arm, the resistance group, the Gladers meet every possible obstacle you can imagine: Cranks (AKA humans who have been infected with the flare virus and turned into flesh-ravaging zombies), lightening storms, bullets, booze, dehydration, armed guards, gangs, corrupt leaders, collapsing buildings… the list goes on.

When I was sixteen the main thing I had to think about was Oprah’s ever-changing hair, where I put my locker key, and how to get through Statistics without murdering someone. I can definitely relate.

The scenarios where the Gladers are fighting for their lives bleeds into one another as the group runs into all kinds of ungodly things.

Honestly the amount of running these kids do is ridiculous. With a couple hours of sleep, a few drops of water and little-to-no food in the tank they run and run. Near the end of the movie Thomas himself says, “No more running.” Finally he sees the madness of it all.

Maybe the threat of imminent death would be a good motivator but, then again, it could be sweet release when the alternative is to drag yourself across so much goddamn sand.

I’d probably be the token character who’s killed off in the first half of the movie. You know, the one that exists to remind the other, more important, characters what they’re running from and give them a chance to show how in touch with their feelings they are. You’d barely know my name but I’d get a special burial and be brought up occasionally when the other characters were feeling sentimental.

But I digress. One cool aspect of this film is that we get to see more of the world this story exists in. And it’s gritty, too.

We see expansive scenes of a desiccated city being overrun by the desert, stretches of barren cliffs, the dark reaches of the tunnels under the city, and the seedy underbelly of a post-apocalyptic city.

There’s a hazy, drunken scene charged with both brutality and sexual tension, a moment when we witness a man being beaten bloody, close-ups into the Crank’s grotesque bodies which have become over-run by disease, and at one point someone coughs up blood through blue lips.

And yes, I did find myself caring about these characters. Not in a I-feel-so-close-to-these-people-they’re-my-new-best-friends kind of way, but at least in a oh-hi-you’re-alright-no-don’t-cough-up-blood kind of way.

This was helped by the chemistry between the Gladers. While some films in this genre seem to bring characters together out of circumstance and pretend they have a genuine friendship, these kids appear to actually like each other.

Having said that, all of the characters could have used a healthy bit of development, and maybe a smattering more dialogue other than, “We’ve gotta get out of here,” “Let’s talk about people who’ve died,” and more aptly, “Run!”

The film could have also done with a bit more plot development. Watching the same thing over again, even when it comes in different packages, gets a little old.

I read the book when it came out (in 2010) so the details are a little hazy, but I remember being caught up in the suspense, personalities, and originality of it all.

Movies and books are different beasts, and this is not the time or place for a rant about Hollywood originality and movie adaptations, but I felt this film fell back on familiar tropes, was far too predictable, and had a lack of depth. It just wasn’t hugely engaging.

This story worked as a book because written word gives the time and space to set the scene, build things up, reveal what's going on and pull you in. Movies have to move quicker and as a result can miss things.

At times I was distracted by potential plot holes (really, the most sophisticated corporation in the world uses key cards as its primary security?), and was left with questions about who, why, how, what?

As the second instalment of a trilogy, I think this film isn’t robust enough to stand on its own, but I won’t be surprised if it keeps audiences just hooked enough to head to the third movie. I also won’t be surprised if I don’t feel compelled to go and see the next one.


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