‘Scorch Trials’ adds new elements to ‘Maze’

16 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Episodic chills and thrills in ‘Maze Runner’ sequel.

Action-packed sequel: Led by Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), the Gladers escape from the wicked World Catastrophe Killzone Department (WCKD) in a scene from Maze Runners: The Scorch Trials.(Courtesy of Gotham Group) Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials may bring a higher intensity of adrenaline rush and thrills, but it lacks the strong drama of its prequel about this dystopian saga. After breaking out of a massive labyrinth inhabited by deadly hordes of giant biomechanical spiders, Thomas and his friends, known as the Gladers, face a grimmer world that brings them constant adrenaline-packed chases and thrills throughout the movie’s 131 minutes. The scientific think-tank is trying to find a cure for the Flare virus that is turning people into bloodsucking zombies called the Cranks, and wiping out humanity. Thomas encounters new friends and enemies and is constantly reminded that the Maze was just the first phase, and things are going to get more deadly from here on out.

Some of the saga readers will be surprised about how much director Wes Ball and scriptwriter TS Nowlin deviate from James Dashner’s best-selling post-apocalyptic young-adult book. Earth has become a barren wasteland populated by Cranks, government operatives running controlled enclosures—and a band of rebels who are fighting for a better way of running the planet—or what’s left of it!

Through it all, WICKED remains the main antagonist, the force behind these vile experiments on young people but also an organisation which Thomas helped in the past before his memory was erased. As his former life starts to return in fragments, his loyalty is tested – a fact that’s made more difficult thanks to the telepathic connection with Teresa. In the previous movie, the teenagers learned that the quasi-governmental scientific agency wanted to harness their immunity to the Flare, a virus that turns humans into zombie-like creatures. But, away from the reach of the movie’s ravenous iterations of creatures from “The Walking Dead,” the production’s thrills and chills are for the most part fleeting and episodic—not the type that linger in your mind after the closing credits roll. This installment of the popular Young Adult fiction has its moments—not the least of which are gorgeously photographed sequences that reveal the scope and magnitude of destruction born out of man’s carelessness and disregard for the world he lives in.

There’s no toying with timelines or a huge amount of investigation or puzzles; it’s pretty much a sprint to get to the Refuge in hope of sanctuary and help. The film often relies on colorful characters who betray their friends, but don’t do much to push its long-winding exposition—as well as revelations that feel more staged than spontaneous.

As humans whose minds have been ravaged by the Flare they’ve become truly animalistic and merciless, adding tension in the scenes where the groups come face to face. Thomas and loner Aris (Jacob Lofland), who arrived from another maze, found out that the selected boys and girls are strung up in a laboratory with tubes slowly draining their immunity fluids. Its sections aren’t cohesive enough to sustain moviegoers’ interest, while some action scenes lack the urgency required to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. An extended subterranean sequence is a standout moment, full of genuine horror and chills and it also presents a formative experience for Thomas who is forced to endure plenty of tough scenes throughout the story. This time, however, more characters are utilized to keep the franchise’s dramatis personae merrier and more eventful—but, not necessarily scarier!

The remaining Gladers trek onward on their mission to seek refuge with the fabled guerilla resistance group in the mountains called the Right Arm Camp. Add to that the surprising amount of time Thomas spends unconscious in this novel (seriously, someone should check him for brain damage) and there’s little real character progression here, particularly when it comes to the connection between Thomas and Teresa.

The fast pace keeps these issues mostly under control, and readers today have the distinct advantage of being able to jump straight into the next entry, The Death Cure, so see how everything gets resolved in the finale. I’ve rarely seen a film which bears less resemblance to the source novel, with events from the third book included and a totally different structure and ending. From start to end, the film keeps throwing in appealing actions, in particular the nail-biting zombie chase scene with Thomas and Brenda inside a devastated skyscraper. The teen dystopian film has high-octane thrills, but does not deliver the same emotional punch of its predecessor and that makes us wonder whether the movie would have been better if it had followed the book’s plot.

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Lili Taylor, Patricia Clarkson

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