Sunday 13 September 2015

Maze Runner Review By Carleton Rutter

Directed by: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scoderio and Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Strapline "The Maze was just the beginning"

So, in a nutshell?
After having escaped the Maze, the Gladers now face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles.

So, what are my thoughts?
Released one year after its first chapter The Maze Runner, this second instalment, The Scorch Trials sees the continuing perilous adventures of Thomas, Teresa, Newt and their fellow Gladers. The first movie proved to be one of the biggest sleeper hits of last year, earning 10 times it's modest $34 million dollar budget.

I enjoyed The Maze Runner it was a solid chunk of teen sci-fi adventure. This second instalment picks up directly from the gladers rescue out of the maze at the end of the first movie. Having been rescued by the World Catastrophe Killzone Department (WKCD) (Pronounced "Wicked") Thomas and company begin to realise that they may have been saved from the frying pan but will probably be thrown into the fire. Thomas uncovers an increasingly oppressive regime at the hands of newcomer Janson (Aiden Gillen) WKCD's mysterious man on point, and thinks "I'm getting out of here!". Thomas and co therefore decide to escape and take their chances in the Scorch, a barren wasteland of desert, mountains and ruined cities populated by Cranks, humans at various stages of the Flare infection.

Unfortunately I did not enjoy Scorch Trials. Where Scorch Trials differs from say The Hunger Games is that, Catching Fire capitalised on what made the first instalment work and bought us more of the same and more besides, but Scorch Trials veers from its original text and decides to go in a completely different direction to it's predecessor and is the worse for it.

With a returning director and central cast one would have hoped for growth in both style of direction and character development, however none is present. Having picked up directly from the first movie I even got a sense of it being one long film chopped into two as there is literally nothing new with any of the characters (O'Brien included) this time round. As a result I found myself switching off, in the first movie it was a simple cast for a simple task, but this movie expands on its scope and themes but forgot to tell the cast!

Also whilst I'm on casting, the first chapter which let's face it was just the Gladers versus the maze didn't provide too much opportunity for some older heavy weight actors to help things along. However this middle chapter does and was this franchises opportunity to stamp it's mark with several key new characters being introduced. I honestly think this franchise should have taken a leaf out of the other Dystopian teen novels. It would have hugely benefited from the likes of a Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games) or Kate Winslet or Naomi Watts (Divergent). What makes it worse is how they build up the introduction of some of these new characters in this new movie leaving you to think "Who are they going to reveal?" only to be ultimately let down on their choices. (No offence to the actors they did pick of course!!)

The best thing Scorch Trials has going for it is the action and in this regard alone it does improve on its predecessor. A quick note on the 3D here, it is not needed. Moving on! Genuinely scary tension-filled encounters with the zombie like Kranks head the taut filled set pieces, although some sequences in daylight set against the vast CGI ruined cities did feel a little too similar to a video game. What disappointed me as well was despite heavy marketing of an impressive post-apocalyptic setting, how woefully underused the wasteland itself was used. Save a few genre-standard establishing shots, this landscape does not play a huge part.

The main issue with this movie is the pacing. The first act is the best but the second act is very poor due to the badly written script coming to the fore and a feeling that you were just jumping from one set piece to another. Coupled with zero character development left me bored and detached to what was unfolding. The last act goes someway to redeem the movie albeit with a very heavy nod to Empire Strikes Back in the feel to its ending. This movie does attempt to answer the big questions posed in the first movie but as Thomas is still in the dark on what is really going on, ultimately so are we.

My Rating 

After a promising start with last years first installment, Scorch Trials feels as barren as it's wasteland, it gets stuck in the sand, and proves that it is more lukewarm than scorching hot (I think that's enough play on words!). Although featuring some cool action set pieces this teen dystopian adventure has ground to a halt with a lacklustre badly written second chapter. The young cast do what they can but flatline due to zero character development. They would have also majorly benefited from some well known experienced hands. If you are fan of The Maze Runner there is enough here for you to enjoy, but if you skipped the first one, there's nothing new here for you. 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is on general release in the UK from today.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is released 2017