Directed by Wes Ball
Screenplay by T S Nowlin
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Giancarlo Esposito, Alexander Flores, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Jacob Lofland, Barry Pepper, Rosa Salazar, Lili Taylor, Alan Tudyk, Patricia Clarkson
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials picks up exactly where the first film left off, with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the remaining Gladers – Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Teresa Agnes (Kaya Scodelario), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Winston (Alexander Flores) – rescued by soldiers and taken to a facility run by Mr. Janson (Aidan Gillen) who tells the kids they are safe from WCKD, the organisation that imprisoned them in the glade, a garden, at the centre of a maze. The gang learn that theirs was just one of many mazes after meeting children from the other mazes at the facility. Every so often groups of the children are taken away to be relocated to safe areas to begin their lives; or so Janson tells them.
Thomas learns, with the help of Aris Jones (Jacob Lofland), that this is a lie and that they are in a WCKD facility and Janson answers to Ava, who is alive and well. The gang also learn the truth behind the experiments on the immunes – to stimulate their minds which produces a unique enzyme which can considerably slow the effects of the Flare virus, responsible for wiping out most of humanity. The enzyme must be harvested as it cannot be synthesized or manufactured and with further experimentation may ultimately lead to a cure being found for the Flare.
The gang flee the facility into the world outside, the Scorch, so called because a solar flare has scorched the earth turning it into a desert, pursued by Janson and his WCKD soldiers. After a series of chases the gang make it to the camp of the Right Arm, the group opposing WCKD. Unfortunately for our heroes, WCKD are never far behind.
The first Maze Runner film had a fascinating mystery at the heart of the story – why are a bunch of kids living in a lush oasis, the Glade, in the middle of a maze, and not one with verdant hedgerows but sinister and imposing stone walls where monsters prowl, hunting the kids Pac-Man style? We were kept enthralled while the kids explored and ultimately escaped the maze before discovering its purpose – an experiment set up by W.C.K.D. (World in Catastrophe: Killzone Department) with the Gladers as the rats, tested on because they are immune to the Flare virus.
Maze Runner 2, on the other hand, sucks something bad. There’s no meaty story here, just a bunch of traumatised kids running around being chased by the ‘bad guys’, and in between is a bit of soul searching, a sprinkling of camaraderie and huge dollops of explosions, things collapsing, gun fights and lots more panicked running – well, what do you expect from a film called the Maze Runner?
Granted, there are some nice sweeping landscapes of the post-apocalyptic world outside the maze – shattered cities with crumbling skyscrapers and sandy deserts with shifting dunes, but these are there to add flavour to the film, which they do, but they cannot, and do not, carry the film. For a film like the Scorch Trials to work, you need robust story backed with fine performances. The story is lame and the cast do a good job given the weak script but it’s not enough to save this ship from its doom.
Do yourself a favour and wait until Maze Runner: the Scorch Trials comes out on DVD and don’t waste your money on a cinema ticket.