Review by Lauryn Angel
2014’s The Maze Runner is one of those rare films that manages to be better than the book it is based on. The film pared down the story, removing a good deal of character development in favor of accelerating the action. The sequel, The Scorch Trials merely nods in the direction of the book’s plot, resulting in a much more satisfying story.
The film picks up where The Maze Runner left off, so viewers who haven’t seen the first movie or read the book won’t know what’s going on. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers – among them Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), and Teresa (Kayla Scodelario) – have been rescued from WCKD and are in a safe facility run by a mysterious man called Jansen (Aiden Gillen). Their troubles seem over until Teresa is separated from the rest of the group. Thomas befriends a young man named Aris – who was himself trapped in a maze, but in his maze, he was the only boy in a community of girls. Aris shows Thomas the secret of the compound: They are not as safe as they seem. The compound is run by WCKD; Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) is not only alive, but is Jansen’s superior; and the young people are being “harvested” by WCKD as a cure for The Flare, the disease that decimated the population.
In the first twenty minutes, the film reveals more about WCKD and its intent than the first to books in James Dashner’s series, and the plot development continues to develop once Thomas and his friends – including Aris and a rescued Teresa – have no choice but to escape into the Scorch. As the name implies, the Scorch is a desert-like environment in which the Gladers have to battle heat, dehydration, and severe electrical storms. When they take refuge in the ruins of a large city, they have even more to contend with, as the city is full of Cranks – victims of the Flare who have passed the point of a cure. In the film, Cranks are essentially fast zombies, and their menace creates some of the most intense scenes in the movie. The city is also where the Gladers pick up key characters Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and her mentor, Jorge (Carlos Esposito). It is Jorge who offers the Gladers the promise of the Safe Haven, beyond the city and over the mountains, which becomes their goal.
Maze Runner: The ScorchTrials amps up the action of the first film and provides quite a few answers about what WCKD is and why they were formed. The returning actors continue to deliver great performances, but the additions to the cast turn in some outstanding performances. Aiden Gillen is perfectly smarmy as the “Rat Man” of the novel, and Carlos Esposito is delightful as the derelict city’s “boss.” Alan Tudyk is a delightful apocalyptic nightclub owner, and Lili Taylor and Barry Pepper round out the supporting cast as revolutionaries.
As middle movies go, The Scorch Trials is a solid chapter. The franchise continues to be action-centric, but movie makes strides toward uncovering the mystery of WCKD and their interest in the Gladers. With fantastic imagery and some truly tense moments, The Scorch Trials is entertaining enough to gloss over a few plot holes.
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