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Dan's Review: "Scorch Trials" improves upon first "Maze"

Sep 18, 2015 09:44AM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Dylan O'Brien in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials - © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (20th Century Fox)

Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, some thematic elements, substance use and language.

Starring Dylan O'Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Rosa Salazar, Kaya Scodelario, Jacob Lofland, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Dexter Darden, Alexander Flores, Barry Pepper, Lili Taylor, Alan Tudyk, Patricia Clarkson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Katherine McNamara, Randall D. Cunningham.

Written by T.S. Nowlin, based on the novel by James Dashner.

Directed by Wes Ball.

GRADE: B-

REVIEW:

It’s getting hard to keep up with all the young adult fiction film adaptations these days. It feels like a big ball of Hunger/Divergent/Maze quadrilogies, and it doesn’t seem to be going away. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second adaptation from James Dashner’s series of novels. Does it distinguish itself among so many other similar movies?

Dylan O’Brien returns as Thomas, the young man who led a group of out of a secret testing facility called “The Glade” in the first installment. Thomas and his friends are taken to a facility where they are promised asylum by a shifty, turtleneck-wearing WICKED official named Mr. Janson (Aiden Gillan), who works for WICKED leader Ava (Patricia Clarkson). WICKED is the force behind the Maze program that seems to be grooming young people for something sinister. Thomas also discovers that there were many other mazes and refugees who escaped, just like him. With the help of Aris (Jacob Lofland), Thomas finds out that WICKED plans to harvest biological compounds from the maze survivors in order to create vaccine that will cure the world’s zombie virus. Thomas decides he won’t let this happen, and he hatches a plan to escape (again).

Joining Thomas are his love interest Teresa (Kaya Scoledario), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Winston (Alexander Flores). Once the kids escape the WICKED compound, the go out in search of the “Right Arm” vigilante group that opposes WICKED. Along the way, they encounter zombies, traitors and WICKED forces out to get them back. They eventually find Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and his adopted daughter Brenda (Rosa Salazar) who help they escapees get to the Right Arm leaders (Barry Pepper and Lili Taylor) hiding in the mountains. But there’s a traitor among the band, and WICKED soon comes calling, setting off a battle.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is definitely a step above its predecessor, with much more action, drama and visual effects. The pacing is much more linear than the cryptic Maze Runner, too. Scorch Trials also has a little more star power, with veteran actors like Pepper, Esposito and Taylor on board.

The trouble with Scorch Trials is its source material, which draws from all the same clichés of teens caught in a post-apocalyptic world. These formulaic plot holes are beginning to get lost in the YA minutiae. For example, our protagonists are always “finding” exactly what they need in their dystopian landscape, especially hard-to-find items like flashlights (complete with fully-charged batteries), vehicles (with plenty of gas), weapons (with plenty of ammo) and other implements that probably wouldn’t exist without a fully thriving global economy (not likely in the wake of a zombie apocalypse).

Still, if you can look past these nitpicky shortcomings, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is sufficient enough for a few thrills and action, and might be pleasant for fans of the novels.

 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Trailer

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