Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

As far as I’m concerned the sheer amount of young adult novel film adaptations are getting as annoying as the current flood of superhero movies. Not every tween book needs to be made into a movie (ahem, Twilight), but Hollywood disagrees with me. They just want the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games franchise, but relatively few have ever gone on to becoming as successful at those two box office juggernauts. 

When I saw the trailers for last year’s The Maze Runner I basically shrugged it off as yet another failed attempt to capture some of those YA dollars. However I did think it looked mildly promising so I waited to watch until it came out on home video. I was surprised by what a well made, suspenseful and entertaining flick it ended up being. It didn’t follow that tween love triangle bullshit that most of these novels hinge upon, which is a plus, but it did feature the maddening cliché of being serialized to set up a franchise. Can’t these fucking movies be self contained just in case they aren’t successful enough to warrant a sequel (Terminator: Genisys I’m looking at you)?! It’s infuriating going to see movies these days because I feel like I just paid to see a big budget episode of television and not a movie. Regardless, I enjoyed the film and looked forward to the sequel. 
The Scorch Trials picks up right after the previous film ended, where the survivors of the maze (Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Alexander Flores) discover that their misery has been caused by the WCKD organization in order to find people immune to a deadly disease called “the Flare” that has wiped out most of the human population. On the run through the burned out Earth, known as “the Scorch”, they must find a band of resistance fighters that hopefully have developed a cure.

Honestly, I didn’t find this sequel to be nearly as entertaining as its predecessor. Not even close. I figured we’d get some answers as to what the point of the maze was, but none are given. More questions are posed, but yet again are left unanswered until the next film (maybe) due to a fucking cliffhanger ending. It’s infuriating to say the least. Nothing makes a lick of sense, random new characters come in and out of the story leaving some of the returning ones tossed aside, a lot of characters have ridiculous arcs that made me roll my eyes and it all feels like it’s a film made by a committee and not a filmmaker with a vision. It’s bland and boring.
I have no issues with the actors. Actually, the cast is pretty amazing. Well, not Kaya Scodelario. She has about as much charisma as Kristen Stewart. Lots of familiar faces show up from Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent), Lili Taylor (The Conjuring), Barry Pepper (Battlefield: Earth), Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Alan Tudyk (Serenity). None are given much to do. They younger cast for the most part are enthusiastically invested in their characters. Especially Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf) who really puts his all into the lead role of Thomas.

That’s all I can really say that was positive about The Scorch Trials. The rest is ho-hum post-apocalyptic sci-fi bullshit. The story feels like amalgamation of every zombie and end of the world movie ever made that even goes as far as stealing the look of the infected right out of The Last of Us. It’s kind of pathetic. It turns out the maze from the first film was way more intriguing than the world it exists in. Mad Max: Fury Road barely scratched the surface of the wasteland in which it’s set, but everything about it was infinitely more thought out and executed than it was here.
The action scenes are repetitive and usually begin in the same fashion – people explore dark corridor/room, the infected see them and give chase for ten minutes. Rinse and repeat. Nothing is as fun or fresh as in the previous film. There’s barely any character development, no real evolution of the story and the answers given in regards to Thomas and Teresa’s relationship are hokey and kind of underwhelming. Although the reasons as to why Thomas was put into the maze is kind of awesome.

What pisses me off so much here is the serialization of the films and the complete disinterest in giving much needed info for the audience to stay invested in the story. There is so much crap strewn about that isn’t explained that it made my head hurt. What are the alien larvae things that were floating in those tanks and popped up in Thomas’ drug induced hallucination? What exactly is up with the infected and why do they turn into fungusy plantlike creatures? What caused the disease? Why is the Earth so fucked up? Why is WCKD putting teenagers in a maze when they are looking for those that are immune to the Flare? Wouldn’t a blood test be easier? Why did someone think that naming a company “WCKD” was a good idea? All of these questions are relevant and not a drop of exposition is given to get us up to speed. It’s all just left for the next film. Fuck you writers. In the ass. With a dildo made of sandpaper. Twice. 
The Scorch Trials is a tired retread of forty years of sci-fi/post apocalyptic cinema. It feels like the middle movie in a trilogy that goes absolutely nowhere and exists only to set up the big finale that will be the third film in the series. Nothing more and nothing less. Funny thing is that I looked up the plot from the book this particular film is based on and it is nothing like what goes on here. In fact, it sounds even more convoluted and ridiculous. Yet another franchise falls apart after a promising start. I fear it won’t be the last.

1 out of 5

p.s. I will still probably see the next film, The Death Cure. Why? Because I’m dumb like that.

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