Review: ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’ (Maze Harder)

Out of the frying pan and into the Scorch.

After only being in the glade a few days, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) has led his fellow gladers out only to be collected by a military group promising to take them to safety; their ordeal with WCKD and maze running is over! In charge of the rescuers is Janson (Aidan Gillen), a guy who can’t seem to help looking smarmy and suspicious (see: “Game of Thrones”). Faster than you can say betrayal, Thomas and the gang are on the run again, this time through the ruins of a city and into the desert-like wastes beyond. Chased by both bad guys and eyeless running zombie things, Thomas has less information than ever about how the gladers can save themselves, but one answer may lie in his former relationship with Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) before they were both sent into the maze.

This was a little disappointing. While the first film wasn’t perfect but well-acted; you’d think part 2 would have stepped it up. It could be the fault of the books, but so much of what we discover in The Scorch Trials doesn’t make sense with the world. We’re told the gladers are special – something about being a living cure that can’t be replicated in a lab – and what those who are infected have to put up with or become. Like most of these Young Adult / New Adult stories, this is an adventure masquerading as a dystopian drama, but this production distinctively alternates between high-budget money shots and low-budget pickups, mostly toward the end of the movie. There are scream-at-the-screen worthy moments during these sequences; did they run out of money and/or hoped no one would notice?

Herein lies the dystopia problem: who built all this stuff, and did it have to be this big? Minor spoilers to follow; this is your only warning! The maze was huge, and we’re told there were many of them. In those mazes are biomechanical sentries that patrol at night or at command of their makers; so why is there a base being attacked by runnie zombie thingies when you can employ way-cool biomechanoids to kill them all? And a few words about air-to-ground combat tactics. If you have anti-aircraft weapons firing at you, take them out; if you have incoming aircraft, SHOOT at them! Especially helicopters! They’re sitting ducks! Ground those suckers! Make the bad guys walk back to base…! Okay, so maybe all the money went into CGI; couldn’t we have shown more than three aircraft? “The Walking Dead” has more able-bodied fighters on the ground than these guys.

Poor planning or extreme budget cuts undermined the so-called ending, a fact not helped seeing how it’s pure cliffhanger for the third and final movie (no word on if it’s going to be split in two like every other film series these days). The Maze Runner worked as a film and could have existed all by itself, but the sequel feels like it stretched a compact work without contributing enough to actually expand the world. Did I mention the wasteland inner-city barter-town that briefly appears without warning like a demon waystation, led by Alan Tudyk? How about the fact that “the people carrying the cure” (can we call them the Curies?) can inexplicably be infected by the infected they’re supposed to be immune to? There’s either a whole lot missing here or far too much was pushed to the final film, so if you’re a fan, wait and watch this on video the night before the final movie comes out to lessen the impact. Who knows? Maybe this will all make sense somehow by then…or not. In the meantime, can we please get Dylan O’Brien a better movie?

(a one and a half skull recommendation out of four)


  1. Although the books are poorly written (prose wise) and have silly dialog, the story that Dashner tells in the book is actually better than the film. However, the pitch black hallway would be difficult to film and the silver slicer ball would be hard to watch. Had the filmmakers actually used the book as full reference, the Scorch Trials film might have actually made more sense and turned out a better film. In the book, the Scorch Trials are actually a real trial, just like the maze was. In the movie, it wasn’t a trial at all. The group simply escaped from their holding facility and made their way across the Scorch to Safe Haven on their own without any motivation from WCKD (other than to get away from their WCKD captors). In film, there are more than two mazes indicated by so many gladers in the holding facility. In the book, there is only an A and B maze (A = all boys and one girl, B = all girls and one boy). In the book, the gladers are told they have been infected with The Flare and to survive the Scorch Trials, they have to reach Safe Haven to get the cure. In the movie, the gladers are told that they are ‘special’ and are immune to The Flare, which doesn’t make sense because one of the gladers becomes infected, indicating that none of the gladers are immune to infection. The movie takes way too many liberties with Dashner’s material and not in a good way ultimately leaving the film disjointed and a somewhat non-sensical cliffhanger at the end.

    Though, as you state, when the film does a shot well, it does it exceedingly well. When it doesn’t, it’s like a cheap B-movie. The first film was well done from pretty much all aspects beginning to end. This one, not so much, though I still enjoyed watching it even though it is not at all true to the source story material.

    The problem you mention about how all of the technology came to exist, who built it and why it has to be so big is not just a problem in the films, it is also a problem in the books. I haven’t yet read The Death Cure, but it may yet explain from where all of this technology originated. Though, the question of the the advanced technology is really a Dashner storytelling problem and is not limited to the films. Like the Harry Potter films, you just have to accept that magic exists in that universe. You can’t really question why it exists or from where it came. This is the same with The Maze Runner series.

    Though I agree, there were many times in the film where Thomas could have taken complete control over the situation with WCKD and failed to do so. He could have ended the entire thing by killing Doctor Ava Paige. Without her, there would literally be no way for WCKD to ‘find a cure’, not that she was ever trying to find a cure in the first place. It’s very clear, Ava’s intentions are far less than noble and she simply cannot be trusted. Such is the story. Killing the antagonist this soon, even though it’s possible, would not allow for the story to continue. So, they have the protagonist appear as dumb as possible instead of doing what was necessary.


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