‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’ moves too fast to tell a story

17 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’: Action-driven sequel with Dylan O’Brien and Patricia Clarkson (Review).

If The Scorch Trials, the sequel to The Maze Runner (2014), has one obvious weakness, it’s that the movie — like a still-toddering child — really doesn’t stand on its own.

When we last met Thomas and his teenage companions from “The Maze Runner,” the amnesiac heroes of that dystopian thriller were being whisked away, by helicopter, from their mysterious confinement inside a deadly maze.”Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”: Aris, Winston and Thomas (Jacob Lofland, Alexander Flores and Dylan O’Brien, from left) discover there are worse things than the maze. (20th Century Fox) CLEVELAND, Ohio – It’s not supposed to work this way.

As its sequel, “The Scorch Trials,” begins, they are being held in another, seemingly impenetrable detention facility, under the supervision of a man (Aidan Gillen) who tells them that they’re on the way to a “sanctuary” where the folks who locked them up in the first movie will never be able to find them again. “How does that sound?’ he asks, with all the sincerity of a politician. The film picks up immediately after the original, with the survivors Thomas et al alighting from a helicopter into a desolate desert landscape before being hustled inside a fortified compound by agents from World in Catastrophe Killzone experiment Department. Even if you’re not familiar with the Y.A. trilogy by James Dasher on which these films are based, anyone who saw the first film knows that no one in this expanding cinematic “Maze” universe is to be trusted. Before long, Thomas — aided by a new character, Aris (Jacob Lofland) — discovers exactly what the people from WCKD want from the young people and it ain’t pretty.

The element of suspicion will serve you well in a sequel — gripping and well shot but overly busy and filled with betrayal — that soon has Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and company on the lam from their saviors and dodging an obstacle course that includes a sandstorm, zombielike creatures called cranks, lightning, distrustful rebels and a doped-up human trafficker (Alan Tudyk) who lures adolescent victims with a creepy rave. In this latest episode, set in a wasteland of dust and rust, the characters are warned early on that any attempt to traverse the desolate terrain would be futile. After a daring escape, they find themselves wandering through sun-scorched sand dunes and derelict cities and trying to stay out of the clutches of their former captors and “cranks,” zombielike humans infected with the “flair.” If only they can connect with the Right Arm resistance movement, they might find sanctuary at last. Ah, but lest we underestimate the ingenuity of inexperienced amateurs, the team led by Thomas weighs the pro of escape against the con of potential death facing scorching heat and makes its getaway. As has become commonplace in the cinema, the first fatality on the team is non-white, which merely underlines the refusal of the filmmakers to engage in any kind of creativity.

One long scene takes place in a former shopping mall, where the six-member team find themselves on the first night, but the shots are so dimly lit we can barely make out what is going on, and it is laughable that this refuge is conveniently located less than a stone’s throw from the detention facility from which they had just escaped. Rosa Salazar is a welcome addition to the cast as feisty Brenda, a nice counterpart to the anemic Teresa (Kaya Scodelario); Giancarlo Esposito is fun as the treacherous Jorge. After surviving the bizarre traumas of the maze and learning a few things about WCKD, the World Catastrophe Killzone Department run by the cold, calculating Dr.

However, despite what appears to be significant manpower on the side of the evil scientists who are looking for a cure but suppressing the power of youth, the teenagers appear to cross the empty desert without any problem at all. The action sequences are well-executed and there’s plenty of them and drabs of exposition along the way that marginally advance the story. (The series actually extends to five books.

And they manage to do all of this with the slowest reflexes known to man, especially in the case of their leader, Thomas, who freezes in place every time there is danger and runs out the clock to ratchet up the tension. Thomas senses this immediately, but he has to convince the others, including Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Winston (Alexander Flores). The original Maze Runner amassed a tidy $100 million-plus at the box office and it’s a safe bet that fans will enjoy the new set of perils and pitfalls awaiting the band of intrepid Glazers. A smattering of flashbacks could have been added without any trouble in order to present a more holistic picture of the characters’ existence-defining tribulations.

Scorch Trials isn’t particularly original or challenging, but there’s enough action and adventure to maintain audience interest until the arrival of Part 3 in 2017. While we assume at the outset that Scorch Trials’s Earth is a future version of our own (not unlike the barely recognizable Chicago ofDivergent/ Insurgent or the New York City signified by the remnants of the Manhattan Bridge in Oblivion), a bridge halfway through makes it clear this pure fantasy. Wherever they go, they fall deeper into trouble, before teaming with Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar), some savvy Scorch-dwellers who may or may not be trustworthy. The giant suspension bridge, which bears a striking resemblance to the Golden Gate and Manhattan bridges, is in fact entirely different in appearance and does not correspond to any bridge of the sort in the present day.

Most of the film, with the exception of a thrilling chase scene up a crumbling skyscraper, is zombie-like: It moves at a steady pace but is without spirit or reflexive capacity. Luckily for the team, they find (working) flashlights in the unlikeliest of places, and somehow the young men even manage to shave on a regular basis, despite them traipsing around a dystopian future with only the barest of supplies and being always cognizant that death lurks behind the next corner. While the second film in a trilogy is almost always the worst (although it would be remiss of me if I failed to point out the exception to the rule: The Empire Strikes Back), this particular stint in the desert brings almost nothing to the story except a change in location.

The filmmaking is uninspired, and the lingering close-ups — to underscore Thomas’s confusion or the unmistakable malice of Janson (Aidan Gillen), the adult in charge of the fortress where the children are being kept after their escape from the mazes. The only real treat on the acting front is Patricia Clarkson, the scientist heading up the search for a vaccine who is both caring and motherly as well as cold and eminently unlikable. The third film, currently scheduled for release in the Czech Republic in January 2017, will certainly be a wonderful improvement, and while the first two parts of this trilogy have been very disappointing, there is still hope.

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