Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials: Review

Jesus – I thought we’d never get out of that mountainous labyrinth. I guess that’s what happens when you’re flying around in technology from the 1930s, and your Captain *Cough* Graf *Cough* is just a drunkard. So apologies mein Lieblings. That was three weeks or so where you were without the good word of the Drive-in Zeppelin.

But guess what! We were able to get back in time for DIZ’s ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! Almost a year to the day and we’re reviewing…oh…Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the sequel to the first movie we ever reviewed. Dammit.

Well, don’t fret. It isn’t as bad as you think though it certainly isn’t a masterpiece of science fiction, horror, mystery, action – whatever the fuck this movie is trying to be. The chemistry of the core cast has noticeably improved, and the addition of strong supporting actors is more than enough to see you through the 131-minute runtime.

Because nothing says “Post Apocalyptic Wasteland” like deserts where they don’t have any business being

Where last we left off, the Lord of the Flies-esque society led by Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) had escaped the colossal maze where they were prisoners of the World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department (AKA WICKED or WCKD). At least I think that’s what they said? Nevermind – they’re the big evil corporation that would see teenagers slaughtered by robot spiders in the name of science.

Once outside the maze, Thomas and his band of surprisingly agile cohorts are rescued by another organization whose leader you might recognize as Littlefinger from Game of Thrones (Aidan Gillen). Of course, not all is as it seems in this ‘sanctuary,’ and Thomas – along with a new ally Aris (Jacob Lofland) – quickly learn the shocking truth about their new home.

Surprise, surprise. They’re in another WCKD compound that harvests the ‘rescued’ children from dozens of mazes for their biological immunity to ‘the flare’ (a virus that turns folks into zombies).

So if you picked choice C – “Dylan and his gang do a lot of running and escape the compound during a sandstorm,” then yes, you’d be correct. That’s the end of Act One.  The group enters into a post-apocalyptic wasteland known as ‘The Scorch’ where they face grueling trials in their quest to find a true sanctuary. Ahh, gotcha – the Scorch Trials.

“…Why do they need a great big fuck-off maze if they could take a blood sample? Who the hell knows…”

It’s ok if you’re immediately turned off by this new subgenre of action/sci-fi films Dear Reader. I generally am too though I will say that I much prefer the Maze Runner movies over the other trending tweenage series hitting theaters year after year. Unlike Hunger Games, which I find painfully boring and unoriginal, the premise of the first Maze Runner film was engaging and mildly satisfying. It was also nowhere near as offensively stupid as the Divergent series.

Having never read the book, I was actually quite captivated by the mystery of the maze and its amnesic inhabitants upon first viewing. Rather than vomiting expository dialogue on the audience with every conversation, the first movie engaged audiences by forcing them to learn what was going on at the same speed as our protagonist Thomas. That is – until they spoonfed us all the information at the end of the film.

With Scorch Trials we’re forced to sprint from one harrowing adventure to the next simply because the second chapter has so much ground to cover if it’s to properly set up the inevitable chapter 3, parts 1 and 2. It’s a shame too because there’s a lot of wasted potential to be found in exploring the wasteland much like you’d find in a Fallout game. Indeed, the look and feel of the Scorch borrows heavily from the post-apocalyptic RPG as well as the stark visuals of Oblivion.

The problem with the sequel is it completely undercuts the delivery of the first movie. It’s almost as if the first Maze Runner was just an elaborate prologue designed to force the characters together against a poorly defined, one-dimensional villain like Patricia Clarkson. Why do they need a great big fuck-off maze if they could take a blood sample? Who the hell knows. Ok, I can understand the zombies – sort of – but why is the world destroyed? Who taught these kids to shave? Don’t try and understand it, Dear Reader, it’ll only make your head spin.

All of this movie’s problems boil down to a terrible script and more than likely a terrible source novel. There are some glimmers of character development from the supporting actors, but, for the most part, the movie accomplishes absolutely nothing. I’ll give you that it’s a mildly entertaining premise, but after the first hour or so it completely dials in every aspect save for director Wes Ball’s eye for action shots.

The Bottom Line:

Obviously, you probably need to see the first film to have some sort of clue as to what’s going on in the sequel, but don’t count on having all your questions answered in a timely or coherent manner. For all the running they do in these films, they never seem to actually reach any sort of conclusion. Instead, we’re left with a series of half-baked cliffhangers that are strung together to form an action narrative.

So see the movie if you’re craving decent sci-fi-horror-mystery-action, but don’t get your hopes up. Scorch Trials has plenty of cringe-worthy dialogue and “wait…what?” moments, so if you have the option to see the film at an alcohol-serving establishment, that’s my recommendation.

Booze makes everything better. Except Divergent – that movie was fucking awful.