Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Review

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Hollywood is not traditionally known for its feminist leanings, but the world of Young Adult film adaptations is one of the few places where females such as Katniss, Tris and Bella have ruled supreme.

Enter the male-led Maze Runner franchise. So hot is the genre, the newly-released sequel, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials was apparently greenlit before the first film proved to be a commercial success.

The latest instalment picks up with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow maze survivors, now rescued from the glade and cloistered away to some less-than-welcoming security facility run by the sinister Mr Janson (Aiden Gillen, turning in a disappointing cardboard villain).

Before long, Thomas realises that this is not the safe haven they were initially led to believe, and he and his muckers effect a daring escape out into the wasteland known as the Scorch.

It’s a serious case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. And then back into the frying pan again.

The film then follows our heroes as they trek across the Scorch in search of a rumoured resistance force hiding out in the mountains. Along the way, they encounter various perils including zombie-like creatures known as Cranks.

There are of course plentiful thrills and spills. And running.

Lots and lots of running.

At one point, Thomas wearily grunts something about being tired of running, presumably about his endless persecution, but you believe he also means it quite literally.

This state of near-perpetual motion neatly sums up the rhythm of the movie: running, then slight pause for exposition; more running, then slight pause for exposition. And so on.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is kind of like a pedestrian version of Mad Max Fury Road, with a tad more plot and far less creative vision.

The settings are impressive though, especially the ruinous cityscape which our heroes navigate en route to the mountains. And some of the creatures are quite terrifying.

It’s just a pity that the strong execution of the action setpieces is marred by their derivative nature.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials also suffers from a lack of humour and levity. Sure, it’s a dystopian nightmare, but it’s also a popcorn romp. Less Nolan, more Marvel please.

It doesn’t help either that some of the more charismatic supporting characters like Newt (the great Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Teresa have now been pretty much sidelined in favour of new cast members like Rosa Salazar’s Brenda and Jacob Lofland as Aris.

The result? It all feels a little crowded with thinly-spread character development.

Giancarlo Esposito does try to have fun as new character Jorge, but alongside Alan Tudyk and Lili Taylor in small but pivotal roles, reminds you that the supporting stars here are of a lesser calibre than the Stanley Tucci’s, Julianne Moore’s and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s of certain other franchises.

None of the newcomers are helped by a cliché-ridden script strewn with clunky, undeliverable lines like ‘if the elements don’t kill you, the Cranks will.’

As always, die-hard fans of the novels and the adolescent target audience may be more forgiving, but ultimately Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a by-the-numbers addition to the YA genre.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

September 2015