“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” is videogame-tastic

maze runner scorch trials

Nutshell: dig 28 Days Later, Dune and The Hunger Games?  Why not have a movie that puts those three films in a Waring and hits pulse?  Pour into a popcorn bucket, brush off the lack of character/story development, and enjoy. Grade: B

YA trilogies FTW!  Or at least that’s what Hollywood has been saying lately. I don’t disagree.  The latest “kids running for their lives” film is Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.  Part two of the Maze Runner series, it takes up almost exactly where the first film left off; as Thomas as his friends are being rescued from the Glades.  Things seem cool at first, with their saviors giving them three hots and a cot — and also showers, yay! — but with Aidan “Littlefinger” Gillen as their new found BFF/rescuer Janson, can that last for very long?  Hint: NOPE.

Here in Scorch, you get to see exactly what has been going on outside of the Glades and in the real world.  Things haven’t been good.  Besides the earth being covered in so much dust I expected Sand Worms to erupt out of the ground, there’s a virus that turns humans into zombie-like creatures with strange, dark crystalline growths erupting from within.  It’s not for the faint of heart, even though the film doesn’t focus the camera too closely on these creatures (MOVIE FOR KIDS) but it’s definitely a hard PG-13.

Gamers of all ages should dig this movie; its nonstop action and run-run-run pacing feels like something straight out of [Insert Fast Paced Zombie Videogame Here, because I’m so totally horrible at gaming.]  Seriously, if they don’t market a tie-in MMORPG, they’re missing an opportunity here.  (What?  I said I was a suck gamer.  I didn’t say I was 100% clueless.)  The zombies Cranks in this film are terrifying, and they’d make a very cool opponent/obstacle in any sort of RPG.  And it’s not like kids don’t jack in.  Make it rain, marketing peoples!

Are there gaps in character development?  Sure.  Everyone’s too busy either running away from something, or towards something else.  Serious questions of characters sanity?  Absolutely; nobody grabs a hat before heading into the Scorch, even after they stumble upon the requisite post-apocalyptic abandoned mall?  Is the plot anything more than run-run-run?  Absolutely not.  There are tidbits of deeper backstory; the always wonderful Lili Taylor plays a doctor who has tried to find a cure without going to the extremes WCKD has reached an exceeded.  There’s more about the virus that turns humans into Cranks.  And there’s the ever-popular rumor of a utopia for those immune from the virus.

But Scorch barely scratches the surface, as grand and gloriously desolate as that surface may be.  (Think Fury Road but with no cars and more teenagers.)  The memory wipe the kids went through before they were sent to the Glades means no development for these characters; they don’t know who they are, and all they’re able to do is run and try to survive.  There’s no space in Scorch for motivations beyond that.

Then there’s the ending.  Remember all the “And Then…” stutter-stops in Return of the King?  Take that, and add to it for Scorch.  After the …7th possible end point?  I just gave up and figured it’d end whenever it damn well wanted to.  That’s poor editing, and jittery as hell continuity.  And with so many unfulfilled promises in Scorch, for many viewers the good parts of this movie and all its crazy-cool mythology may get buried by an ending that drags on and on.  So I won’t do the same.

 

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