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)