Maze Runner was a pleasant surprise from last year, managing to offer something slightly different in the Young Adult genre with a thrilling, original take on the dystopia theme we’ve already seen with The Hunger Games and The Divergent series. Luckily, The Scorch Trials continues along the more original theme compared to it’s genre contemporaries but unfortunately, not compared to what we have seen in other films many times before.
The Scorch Trials is, to it’s credit, very different from the first movie. It doesn’t really seem to follow the same themes or structure at all. There are call backs and of course the characters remain the same (to some extent) but this isn’t a self-contained mystery but more of a futuristic fight for survival. The core, teenage characters find themselves surviving in a wasteland, journeying to some mythical place they’ve very briefly heard about in a hushed conversation. So far, exactly same as any post-apocalyptic movie we’ve seen many times before.
The Scorch Trials tries to break-up the journey with many different features of the new desert wasteland. We get various different obstacles for the characters to overcome, from shadowy military forces, rogue groups and militia, through to the now customary “zombies” or “Flares” as they are called in this version. All of these elements have been done many times before and any seasoned viewer of this type of film may find themselves sighing at the usual mistakes, “twists” and story-devices that are employed.
In fact, not only does the film follow the same beats as many others it so closely resembles but also manages to throw in all the usual traits of a zombie survival movie too, from the jump-scares, “are they really dead” and infected member of the group. It’s hard to tell the movie apart from any other futuristic dystopia that we’ve watched characters try to survive through before.
Except Scorch Trials is done very well. It is entertaining and if nothing else, an awesome spectacle. We have seen all the story elements before but it can be forgiven when they are presented in an exciting and slick-looking package as this movie provides. There are some fantastic set-pieces, from the initial interaction with the “Flare” through to the group being caught in an impressive electric storm. Above all others is the chase through a fallen building for two of our principle characters. This chase begins in an abandoned underground tunnel system and turns terrifying very quickly before jerking forward into a great action chase sequence, the finale of which has a great, edge of your seat conclusion. It is the perfect example of how The Scorch Trials manages to do the familiar very well.
To add to the slick way the movie delivers it’s story is the decent, newer additions to the cast. Aiden Gillen, of Game of Thrones, manages to snarl and shout appropriately as the main villain of the film but the real magic lies with the introduction of Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge. He has a great journey of his own within the film and when he first encounters the teenagers, his words and actions are captivating on-screen, a trait that carries through the rest of the movie.
Rosa Salazar offers our first really interesting female addition the cast. She is kick-ass, intelligent and actually offers something to the story – unlike the carry-through from the last film, Teresa played by Kaya Scodelario. To the movie’s credit, Teresa gets much more of a story in this film compared to the first but she is so unlikable and frankly dull that when her story does play out, it’s difficult to care.
That’s the same for the rest of the original characters too. The boys who were well-rounded, developed characters have now become much more generic and undistinguishable. Their main contribution to the film seems to be to offer Dylan O’Brien’s Thomas a group to keep safe and bounce ideas off. They don’t offer the group dynamic and different character elements that you’d hope.
It means it falls to O’Brien’s Thomas to hold the bulk of the movie on his shoulders and he does a very good job with a character who is also quite one-dimensional. A character needs to be much more than just brave and suspicious but this now seems to be Thomas’ main motivation for any of his actions. Luckily, there are even more potential new characters we meet in the third act who offer some great potential for further instalments.
Regardless of it’s faults though, I still found myself captivated by the whole film. It was a thrilling, exciting and tension filled story which pushed along at a frantic pace. It didn’t have the originality of the first movie but does manage to carry itself ably on the great looking effects and well staged action sequences.
Overall, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a very different movie to it’s predecessor but a very familiar movie compared to any other set in a futuristic dystopia. The story has been done before but you could argue that it has rarely been done this well, with slick effects and great, tense action. You will have to forgive some dull characters but some of the more interesting new additions more than make up for it.
Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)