Action Adaptation

'Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials' Film Review: Out of the maze, into the fire

September 18, 2015Ben MK

The landscape of young adult book-to-film adaptations is littered with the hollow carcasses of franchise non-starters. For every Hunger Games, there's an Ender's Game. For every Divergent, there's an I Am Number Four. The latest contender to enter the fray, 2014's The Maze Runner, was one of the few exceptions to the rule. And now its sequel, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, is gearing up to set the youth box office on fire.

Based on the novel by author James Dashner, The Scorch Trials finds central protagonist Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his friends, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and Frypan (Dexter Darden), free of the labyrinthian prison they struggled to escape from in the previous film and brought to an industrial compound run by a man named Janson (Game of Thrones' Aidan Gillen), who promises to keep them safe from the bad guys (the World Catastrophe Killzone Department, otherwise known as WCKD).

Things are not always as they seem, however. And soon Thomas, his compatriots, and two new acquaintances, Aris (Jacob Lofland) and Winston (Alexander Flores), are on the run again. Venturing deep into the treacherous desert wasteland known as "The Scorch," they search for an elusive band of rebels calling themselves "The Right Arm." Instead, they find more than they bargained for, as they're relentlessly hunted by squads of WCKD soldiers and forced to fend off attacks from hordes of feral, zombie-like creatures called "Cranks."

Granted, none of that may make any sense to those who aren't already familiar with the "Maze Runner" trilogy of novels, but rest assured. Even though director Wes Ball and screenwriter T.S. Nowlin kick the film off by throwing viewers into the deep end story-wise, the pieces of the puzzle quickly fall into place. The real problem, however, is that once we get a handle on what The Scorch Trials is actually all about, it feels like something of a letdown, as the movie does little to distinguish itself from the numerous dystopian sci-fi films that have come before it.

Essentially cobbled together from bits and pieces of other films like I Am Legend, 28 Weeks Later and The Hunger Games, The Scorch Trials spends much of its running time reenacting familiar scenarios and dishing out pseudo-important revelations when what it should really be doing is focusing on the moral grey occupied by its icy main antagonists, and the ideology that separates them from the film's rag-tag group of heroes. Instead, what we end up with feels far too derivative, which may lead some viewers to wonder... Is this really what we escaped the maze for?

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials releases September 18th, 2015 from 20th Century Fox. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, some thematic elements, substance use and language. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 11 Mins.

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