Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
T.S. Nowlin (Novel: James Dashner)
2 h 11 min
Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Alexander Flores, Jacob Lofland, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Aidan Gillen, Terry Dale Parks, Kathryn Smith-McGlynn, Lili Taylor, Barry Pepper, Nathalie Emmanuel, Alan Tudyk
PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, some thematic elements, substance use and language
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
The spate of young adult adaptations has diminished over the years. At the height of the trend’s popularity, several films tried to replicate the success of the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games films. The Maze Runner was an engaging first outing; problematic for sure, but never uninteresting. With its first sequel, The Scorch Trials, director Wes Ball keeps the tone and engagement level high even if the material is starting to get stale and uninspiring.
The second film in the series follows where the previous left off with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow maze survivors fleeing into the waiting arms of a group that provides them and others like them with a safe haven. Alongside survivors of other mazes, Thomas unravels a new mystery that indicates their safety is ephemeral. As they break out of the facility and enter the vast desolate landscape of the Scorch, they begin to discover that things on the outside are desperate, but being free of the operatives of the medical experimenters at WCKD is significantly more important.
O’Brien is still an affable lead in the role of Thomas, a character that gets more complex as the series progresses, but never loses his energy, conviction, or talent. There are hints at a secret origin for Thomas, but we learn less about them in this film than we probably should have. At his side, it’s difficult to find a character worth appreciating among the young folk who are making this journey with him.
For example, Kaya Scodelario is an emotionless void whose motives are supposed to be complex, but just feel forced. Her dead-eyed expressions are reminiscent of Kristen Stewart from the Twilight films and make us long for the likes of Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) or Shailene Woodley (Divergent) to come in and show her how to emote and engage the audience.
Two new actors who make appearances mid-way into the film who at least give us others to root for are Giancarlo Esposito and Rosa Salazar. They don’t have a lot to do, but both are charismatic and interesting. Late in the film, Lili Taylor shows up and the rest of the cast pales in comparison to her.
T.S. Nowlin’s screenplay is a bit lean on narrative heft, but the situations are dire enough that you want to see the characters survive, perhaps not all of them, but certainly some of the ones who didn’t make it. The focus on perilous adventures is straight out of adventure film history, as safety turns to peril, which turns to escape, which turns to more safety, ad nauseum. By the end, we come to expect it to be exactly as it’s been laid out for us rather than shocking us with something previously unexpected.
As the sequel prepares audiences for the third and final film in the trilogy, we’re left with a handful of questions that were lightly touched on at the end of the first film and which are frustratingly muddied by the events of the second film. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials needed to be more self-contained than it is, but it also needed to be better fleshed out so that when the third film arrives, it feels like a natural progression rather than an unnatural evolution.
April 11, 2018