Review: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Is A Giant, Confusing Mess
Title: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Director: Wes Ball
Screenwriter: T.S. Nowlin (screenplay) and James Dashner (novel “The Scorch Trials”)
Principal Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scoderlario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Alexander Flores, and Rosa Salazar
Summary: After having escaped the Maze, the Gladers now face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles.
I feel like I was one of the lucky ones that went into screenings of The Maze Runner last year. I knew, from other people, that the story completely off the rails right at the end, but even I wasn’t expecting it to go as far out there as it did. It very nearly ruined what had been at least a tolerable movie for me, but looking back I can’t remember a single detail from the first movie. The Maze Runner was just another YA dystopian series that I wasn’t interested in and only saw initially because I got free passes.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials manages to take what was already a confusing concept and make it even worse while nearly switching genres.
If you don’t remember the first movie or what happened then that’s too bad because The Scorch Trials does absolutely nothing to remind the audience what happened previously. It took me about half of the movie to remember what the big twist was and, at one point, they reference a character that died in the first movie and I had no idea what they were talking about. The most interesting part of The Maze Runner was the maze itself and how it sort of became it’s own character the longer the movie went on. However, this time there is no maze and the movie seems to have switched genres on us. We went from a mystery and a puzzle to revolution and zombies. The switch is enough to give everyone whiplash, and as you’re recovering you begin to realize that this movies message is incredibly muddled.
The writers seem to think that naming the big, evil corporation W.C.K.D (pronounced exactly how it looks) is subtle and they make a big deal about trying to figure out who is on the right side. Since this is a YA series there is, of course, the good guys going against the evil corporation, but this time the final reveal left me even more confused. I don’t want to spoil it but come the end of the film I was coming down on W.C.K.D’s side rather than Thomas’ (Dylan O’Brien) and his rag tag group. The romance is much more played down in this series. I feel like it was aiming for a male audience over a female audience, but the love triangle that has to be in genre fiction now is present and accounted for. It also feels like it has no place in what is essentially a teen zombie movie with zero self awareness.
All of these problems can be traced back to the original material and writer James Dashner, but I’ve seen bad source material become good movies. There wasn’t much for screenwriter T.S. Nowlin to work with, though, and director Wes Bell tries to stage everything in an interesting light but it all feels so generic. The maze from the first movie was, if nothing else, visually appealing to look at. This time we have stretching deserts and abandoned cities that we’ve all seen in every other post-apocalyptic movie. The pacing starts out okay and then runs head first into a brick wall about halfway through act two. The rest of the movie seems to drag for so much longer than its 131 minute running time, The cast tries to give it their all as well, and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Minho (KI Hong Lee) were the only two that were remotely interesting. Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) has a bigger role this time but she’s a plot device and not a character. In fact both of the two female leads are just plot devices devoid of any real character development.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is another frustrating sequel to add to the plethora of disappointing YA sequels. A series that was the once the epitome of “good until it isn’t” is just a giant, confusing mess now. I’m constantly told I should be suffering from “superhero fatigue”, but the only fatigue I feel is having to sit through yet another one of these YA dystopia series.