Review: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
PLOT: After having escaped the treacherous landscape of the Maze, Thomas and friends soon realize that the adventure is just beginning. With new characters facing old villains, they must seek out those willing to fight back against WICKED - World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department.
REVIEW: The Maze Runner is back! And while there were elements in last year’s THE MAZE RUNNER that had promise, it was ultimately a less than stellar movie going experience - at least for this viewer. So what happens when Thomas and pals finally escape the Maze and find a few new adventures? Well, in MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS, there is a real sense of energy and dare I say thrills that wasn’t quite so pulse pounding before. In this second installment, there is a hell of a lot more terrain they travel which helps this sequel rise above the original. In fact, this is a hell of a lot of fun. This time around, the filmmakers took what worked and have included new characters that add a little depth to this post-apocalyptic fable.
After escaping from the Maze, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Winston (Alexander Flores), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) have found a possible safe haven with a fellow named Janson (Aiden Gillen). However, things look bleak when a strange young man named Aris (Jacob Lofland) - a survivor of another maze - shows Thomas a horrifying secret. Soon, the group discovers that Janson may have deadly plans and they must make a desperate attempt to escape. Once they are able to flee Janson’s grasp, they find themselves on a hellacious mission of survival. In the scorch, they must fight off zombie like creatures called Cranks while searching for other survivors, who rumor has it have made their way to safety.
In the exposition heavy THE MAZE RUNNER, they spent a ton of time creating the characters. Thankfully, this time around they get to have a bit more fun. Director Wes Ball - with a screenplay by T.S. Nowlin based on the novels by James Dashner - amps up the action with a series of chase sequences. One series of events in particular, with newly introduced character Brenda (the terrific Rosa Salazar), is damn near terrifying. It features Thomas and Brenda running from some of the nasty Cranks in the aftermath of destruction. With the impressive sight of buildings that have toppled down on each other, the two are on the run. And at one point, the only thing protecting Brenda from a certain death high above the asphalt wasteland is a cracking window - think JURASSIC PARK II. For a PG-13 flick based on a series of books designed for teens, there are thrills aplenty.
And speaking of Brenda, the new characters that show up in the second installment are a terrific addition to an already charismatic cast. Both Salazar and Giancarlo Esposito bring a ton of energy to the proceedings. The two actors are terrific together, and Rosa has an incredible chemistry with Dylan O’Brien as well. Hell, she shares incredible chemistry with anybody she has screen time with. Also adding a bit of class to this flick is the presence of both Lili Taylor and Barry Pepper. The two actors are wonderful talents, and thankfully they aren’t slumming it here. The previously mentioned Aiden Gillen is also solid as a questionable figure, along with the returning Patricia Clarkson. And for all you Alan Tudyk fans, you’ll have a blast seeing the actor in a very different type of role.
With a running time of just over two hours, THE SCORCH TRIALS has an impressive level of intensity thanks to some effective action set pieces. You could even say that there are a couple of edge-of-your-seat moments throughout. Yet at times, the story gets a little bogged down with unnecessary exposition and a scene or two that feels a bit repetitive. And due to a huge amount of characters occupying this post-apocalyptic world, their fate may not be all that heartfelt unless you are a diehard fan. Still, there is enough in this second installment to make it enjoyable for the uninitiated.
MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS has more excitement than the first. And frankly, it is a better, more satisfying event. The cast is top-notch, and once again I was completely won over by Rosa Salazar. It also seems that Dylan O’Brien is getting very comfortable headlining a huge film. He carries this film especially well. And for those of you who have little interest in a film like this you’ll be pleased to know that they’ve injected quite a bit of horror into the mix. The Crank sequences offer a decent amount of creepy tension - although it did strike me as strange the characters didn’t seem to know much about zombies. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the first film, THE SCORCH TRIALS continues the story surprisingly well. Now I’m actually looking forward to seeing where all this is heading.
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