Review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Rating

Director

Wes Ball

Screenplay

T.S. Nowlin (Novel: James Dashner)

Length

2 h 21 min

Starring

Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Will Poulter, Jacob Lofland, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Aidan Gillen, Barry Pepper, Nathalie Emmanuel, Katherine McNamara, Walton Goggins

MPAA Rating

G-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and some thematic elements

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Review

When this series premiered four years ago, it was an attempt by the studio to create another popular entry in the young adult-targeted dystopian thriller genre where The Hunger Games had found immense success. Based on the novel by James Dashner, the second film released a year later, but due to an on-set accident involving star Dylan O’Brien, this third film was delayed. Now, we’re in early 2018 and the last movie, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, is finally out and for fans of the series, it should be a satisfying conclusion.

After escaping a giant maze constructed to test their mettle (The Maze Runner), the Gladers fled across the desert to escape WCKD, the villainous corporation attempting to find a cure for a zombie plague ravishing the world. They found actual safety in the end with a resistance cell (Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials).

Now, the surviving members of the tight-knit group of youths have found themselves trying to rescue one of their own from the experiments WCKD is performing on him. As they invade the last untouched city in the world, a walled behemoth of modernism, they unleash events that may ultimately lead to the destruction of and elimination of the human race, unless they can succeed.

As with previous installments, youths in peril is the name of the adventure. While the first and second films put Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his cadre of compatriots into a situation where they are boxed-in by the enemy, the third film gives them agency in a way that we haven’t yet seen: they are on the offensive and ready to bring the fight to WCKD.

O’Brien is still a charismatic lead, though his characteristic indecision has become a tad tedious. He hesitates when he should be driving forward, never quite sure if what he’s doing is for the best rather than basing his actions on his prior successes and knowing that he can make it through.

Kaya Scodelario as the traitor-turned-conscientious objector Teresa continues to show off how little talent she possesses. Whether she’s working for or against the maze escapees, she conveys the same dispassionate annoyance that has come to characterize Teresa and define how little the audience cares about her.

Her co-star Patricia Clarkson is much better at that type of performance. Clarkson gives us a villain with defined moral relativism who is as much a product of her situation as she is a sponsor of it. We feel her concern for society and understand that while her ethics are questionable, her demeanor is not. Her co-villain Janson (Aidan Gillen) is more easily equated to the traditional villain mold, a character so hell bent on his own vision for the future that anyone who gets in his way is going to regret getting involved. He has the menace and hubris that often accompany such characters, but never parlays that into a deeper characterization.

Wes Ball’s direction is still solid while screenwriter T.S. Nowlin’s script continues to embarrass. There are loose plot elements that do more to destroy the narrative than the zombies do. There was a lot of premise in the first film, which was sufficiently continued in the second; however, the third film doesn’t follow through. Here, things don’t work out quite as originally expected, but they are so well telegraphed that it feels like a natural conclusion. If there hadn’t been so many plot holes and dropped plot hooks across the span of this film and the series as a whole, it might have felt like a more solid and satisfying conclusion.

While Maze Runner: The Death Cure has some satisfying elements and wraps everything up quite nicely, evoking emotion at a handful of appropriate spots while failing to do so in others, the film still feels like the last fumes in the tank were propelling it for the final 2 hour 21 minute runtime. Had the series been filmed simultaneously and released at a steady pace rather than hamstrung by the accident that put star O’Brien out of commission for a time, it might have had a better chance of pulling things together. However, unlike The Hunger Games, the entire series never really felt as relevant or competently made as it needed to, hampering what could have been a more engaging trilogy.

Review Written

April 16, 2018

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