Film Review: ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’

Chapman W.

As the latest in the list of movies based on books about dystopian futures with oppressive governments, zombies and angst-ridden teens, can “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” live up to the success of its prequel?

“Scorch Trials,” the second film in the trilogy based on the novels by James Dashner, opened Friday. The first movie in the series, “The Maze Runner,” came out last year, and was received extremely well.

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"Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" opened on September 18th (image courtesy of IMDb)
“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” opened Sept. 18. (Image courtesy of IMDb.)

This film follows the story of Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brian, and the rest of the surviving “gladers” from the first movie as they attempt to confront the world that lies outside the maze they (spoiler alert) escaped at the end of the first movie. The kids must face off against the organization that placed them in the maze, WCKD (pronounced wicked, which is honestly a very silly name for an organization that’s possible not evil), zombie-like creatures affected by the flare virus, known as cranks, the apocalyptic world around them, known as the scorch and their own moralities. The amount of different antagonistic groups in the film, which offers a bit of ambiguity, leaves viewers wondering exactly who is opposing the main characters.

The casting was excellent for this movie. O’Brian, known for his work on “Teen Wolf” reprises the role of Thomas that he played well in the first movie. Several other actors return for this film as well, including Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who play fellow gladers Minho, Teresa and Newt, respectively. Much of the new cast is excellent as well, with Aiden Gillen, known for playing Petyr Baelish in “Game of Thrones,” having a powerful role in the film, and Giancarlo Esposito and Rosa Salazar playing unique supporting roles.

My main complaint with the characters, especially the supporting cast, is that they very much felt like background characters more than anything else. Character development was spread very thin, and it felt as if the movie was far too focused on Thomas, while not focusing on his development much at all. Although many of the characters are strong, I found myself attached to certain ones for their unique traits rather than their role in the story.

The plot in this movie highly contrasts that of the first film. Whereas the first movie felt very constrained within the maze, with a linear plot that led up to a massive climax, this story felt much more open and less linear in a way. The movie feels divided into several different major scenes, each with its own minor climax. While the open-world feeling of this story offers a nice juxtaposition to that of “Maze Runner,” I couldn’t help but feel like there was almost too much going on in this story.

Overall, the plot left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied. It felt almost as though they were trying to add as much as they could to the story while still omitting things in order to leave a bit of mystery. While I’m invested in the story for the third film, I felt that this sequel suffered a bit from a sophomore slump of sorts, and does not hold its own as a singular story, the way the first movie did.

As with many action movies, the strongest part of this movie was the special effects and action sequences. The post-apocalyptic world of the scorch reminded me of “Hunger Games” meets “Mad Max” pulled off surprisingly well. The costuming was fantastic, and just goes to show how the apocalypse basically turns the world into a free-for-all thrift shop. My only complaint is that the costumes seemed to have more character than some of the main characters at times.

The movie looked fantastic, with the open world of the scorch offering for beautiful cinematography. However, several scenes did feel a bit too CGI, but that’s almost a standard in dystopian films these days. Whereas the first movie was deep greens and dull grays, this film had rusted oranges and a burnt-out feeling to perfectly create the feeling that the scorch needed.

All in all, I absolutely enjoyed this movie. Some of the characters were lacking depth, and there was a lot going on at times, but “Scorch Trials” absolutely carries well as a sequel, and stacks up against the “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” series.

Rating: 6.8/10

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I’m excited to see the conclusion of the trilogy, and to see how many of the loose ends are tied up. This series is different enough from others to hold its own in the world of teen apocalypse movies, and I’m glad that the romance has not been pushed as hard as it could have been.

Collegian Reporter Chapman Croskell can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @Nescwick.