After escaping from the Glade, Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien) and the survivors arrive at a shelter for observation by the mysterious Janson (Aidan Gillen) who appears to have good intentions to try and help them. Thomas has his doubts and when he feels something that’s not quite right, he and the others escape out into the desolate desert called The Scorch where they have to fend off assaults from the infected while looking for the sanctuary known as Safe Haven.
The Maze Runner The Scorch Trials Analysis:
Admittedly, I’m a fairly recent convert to the latest attempt at bringing a young adult science fiction novel to the screen, in this case James Dashner’s “The Maze Runner” series. I’ll also admit I’ve never read any of the books, so if you’re looking for any sort of direct comparison to the text, then you might want to look elsewhere.
The Maze Runner felt quite refreshing, perhaps because sci-fi that works in print hardly translates to the big screen and it was a definite exception, being a young adult film that didn’t have all those doe-eyed teenage girls falling in love and screwing things up (kidding!), as it set up a post-apocalyptic world that felt different from other movies in the genre. The Scorch Trials continues the tradition of world apocalypse films like The Omega Man with a bigger group of protagonists. While it’s commendable that director Wes Ball has returned for the second installment considering the rarity these days for a movie series to have a single director, The Scorch Trials in the end seemed so different from The Maze Runner that it’s partially its undoing.
At first, the movie feels more contained and smaller than the first movie, maybe because the entire first act takes place within the underground barracks. It’s quite obvious Janson doesn’t earn the Gladers’ best interest at heart even before Thomas realizes that those immune to the Flair virus are having their blood harvested to find a cure. When the Gladers manage to escape out into the Scorch, it’s where the movie starts attaining the scope that made the first film so impressive.
From there, the Gladers’ quest changes between them running from the infected–basically your garden endless fast zombie–and other dangers while facing new people along the way. That’s one of the most notable differences from The Maze Runner – there’s more locations and situations Thomas is thrust into, but the first movie also benefitted from having a smaller tight-night group of characters as well. The whole time they’re trying to get away from the science organization WCKD–and seriously if you’re going to be even remotely evil, you should probably pick a different name?–there’s paranoia about who to trust as Janson continues to chase the Gladers throughout the film.
Ball is actually a pretty decent director, maintaining tension in the action set pieces, especially when the film veers more into the horror realm, and one has to commend the film’s production designer and FX crew for creating such a distinctive-looking world, especially when the crew are outdoors but also in some of the enclosed spaces where the set dressers’ work is just as effective.
Even with his keen eye for visuals, Ball’s efforts don’t do much to help a film that’s plagued with obvious storytelling issues. There’s a certain point where questions need to start getting answered and those answers really take away from the mystery. As the story unfolds, it becomes more and more like those other young adult films and falls into the traps The Maze Runner did such a good job avoiding. The introduction of Rosa Salazar’s Brenda, which provides the same love triangle element we’ve witnessed in everything from Twilight to The Hunger Games, feels like the movie’s greatest cop-out even though her sequences with Dylan O’Brien are quite good.
But the three main actors–Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario and Rosa Salazar–aren’t the problem, as they show a lot of promise and should have solid careers ahead of them. That’s not something I could say about some of the other Gladers, who aren’t very good at selling their situation. Likewise, the new characters introduced don’t offer very much to the mix with Giancarlo Esposito’s Jorge being one of the standouts and Alan Tudyk seeming like a character better suited for The Fifth Element. The fact that The Scorch Trials never appears to be on par with the original Maze Runner can perhaps be blamed on the source material, but the lines just aren’t up to snuff either.
The Scorch Trials wraps up on another cliffhanger and not in a good place either, even though it leaves one hope the moviemakers will be clever enough to end the story with the next film rather than stretching it out into two more installments, which has been the biggest ongoing problem with the genre.
The Maze Runner The Scorch Trials -The Bottom Line:
The Scorch Trials full movie isn’t nearly as original or groundbreaking as The Maze Runner was, maybe because it feels like they’ve runs out of ideas, forcing it to resort to things we’ve seen in so many other movies.