Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials: Film Review

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials: Film Review

Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Aiden Gillen, Giancarlo Esposito, Kaya Scodelario, Rosa Salazar
Director: Wes Ball

Whereas the first Maze Runner film served up a potent cocktail of intrigue, mystery, Lord of The Flies, Survivor and Ender's Game, the second, The Scorch Trials favours a rather more action-led thrill-ride in a post-apocalyptic dystopia.

Picking up from where The Maze Runner ended, the second YA outing concentrates purely on Dylan O'Brien's Thomas and his ragtag group of survivors from the Glade. Whisked away to a compound at the end of the first film by a mysterious organisation known as WCKD, Thomas and his fellow Gladers find their mistrust of the bigwigs thrust squarely into focus when not everything appears to add up.

So, leading the charge, Thomas et al bust out of the WCKD complex and away from their shadowy leader Janson (a smarmy Gillen) to head to the Mountain Ranges of the devastated outside world aka the Scorch in the hope of getting some answers and surviving.

Whereas the first Maze Runner was all about the character and establishing the trust/  mistrust elements (specifically a youth mistrust of adult intentions), The Scorch Trials eschews all of that character element and explanation in favour of a series of reasonably taut and exciting action sequences that simply segue from moment to moment and are usually preceded by Thomas shouting variations of the word "Run!".

That's not to deny that large portions of said action sequences are anything but thrilling and it's great to see a YA finally revel in those trappings rather than simply wallow in yet more moping. But it comes in place of people forwarding the script, which is frustrating - particularly given the work done with some of the characters in the Glade, the majority of whom this time around are simply given piecemeal screen time.

By varying quite considerably from the book, The Scorch Trials is its own beast - even if it relies on some unevenly executed CGI style zombies to bring the menace and jump scares. But by opening up the world and introducing a raft of new characters, there are only a few newbies who stand the transition. If anything, this film is Dylan O'Brien's to shoulder and he doesn't quite have the charisma to fully pull it off this time around and Scodelario makes scant use of what time she has, even if her arc is sign-posted early on. It misses the character bonding and determined resolution of the group of the Glade that pulled us in and had us in these characters' corner as it all transpired.

Problems persist with parts of the internal logic, with WCKD chasing the group and then backing off without any reason, other than for it to serve the wider narrative. Thankfully, some of those concerns are waylaid by the majority of the action scenes, which are tautly executed and guarantee you in parts to be on the edge of your seat. Unlike the second part of the Divergent series, this is a film that ups the action ante, even if the explanations of what is going on are put on the back burner.

However, there are moments that feel misplaced and could have been jettisoned; in one sequence, both Thomas and an escapee end up at some kind of drunken Bacchanalian party - it's an odd excursion and one that really should have ended up on the cutting room floor (even if it serves up a great Alan Tudyk in guy-liner).

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is not a bad second serving, but it doesn't exactly build on the work on the first in quite the rounded way that you'd perhaps expect it to. It certainly in parts feels like an extended tease,dangling answers near you and plucking them away just because it can.

A weaker cliffhanger also doesn't serve to build as much anticipation into a conclusion as you'd hope, but Wes Ball has certainly made the dystopian as destructive as possible with a packed film of action - even if you do feel at times like you're being distracted from an ultimate resolution.


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