********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Wes Ball
Actors: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Rosa Salazar
Make hay while the sun shines! That’s a philosophy which holds true at times for building movie franchises. It certainly is what 20th Century Fox is banking on for The Maze Runner series. Even before the first movie had released in theatres, the studio had given the green light for the sequel. In September 2014, when The Maze Runner finally hit the theatres, it became a surprising big box-office success thanks to is modest production budget as well as the action-packed sci-fi elements in the movie which appealed to the audience. A year later, the sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials has hit the theatres on more or less the same formula – loads of action, high on pace, and a lot of running here and there. If you enjoyed The Maze Runner, then you will like what Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials has to offer.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials follows the young band of survivors of the first movie led by Thomas (Dylan O’Brien). They have apparently been rescued from the maze trials and taken to a facility run by Mr. Jansen (Aidan Gillen) who promises them and other similar survivors an escape from the evil organisation WCKD who ran the maze trials. It seems that the ordeals of Thomas and his friends may have come to an end. But curious Thomas decides to investigate what is happening behind the closed doors of the facility, which eventually leads him to discover that things aren’t what they initially seemed to be. There is danger still lurking around the corridors and Thomas once again has to save himself and his friends, though this time they need to enter the unknown deserted outside world – The Scorch.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is based on the second book of the trilogy written by James Dashner, though there are the usual variances. The screenplay by T.S. Nowlin tries to do a bit of work in terms of character development, and thus goes through a rhythm of action then drama and then action again. But the action sequences are the high points of the movie, despite most of them being just chase scenes. Filled with some exhilarating music once again by John Paesano and wonderfully captured by director Wes Ball, the movie’s action scenes have an edge-of-the-seat thrill about them, which make you wrap your arms tightly as you wait with bated breath as to what will happen next. Wes Ball had provided such excitement in The Maze Runner and he recreates that magic in the sequel too. However, one could have had more of it, instead of the overdone dialogue-led interactions between characters that only come across as distractions. Most critics complain about lack of character development, but there are some movies that do not necessarily need them to be fun to watch. The Maze Runner series is something similar which can do without over-emphasis on characters, and so the half-hearted attempt in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials to create some sort of character arcs doesn’t work. The visual effects, on the other hand, are wonderful, somewhat justifying its almost double production budget as compared to its predecessor.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is bustling with youthful energy just like last year’s movie did. It is led by Dylan O’Brien who has the potential to someday be a youth icon. He displays great screen presence once again, and delivers an intense performance laden with a bit of softness that makes him a hero to love. It would be really interesting as to how his career shapes up after The Maze Runner series concludes, for if he chooses well enough, Dylan O’Brien looks to be a star in the making. The old gang consisting of Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee and Kayla Scodelario compliment Dylan O’Brien’s presence. They knit well as a unit, though with newer characters introduced, their screen time has come down a bit in the sequel.
Rosa Salazar is the wonderful new addition in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials as Brenda, someone whom Thomas and his friends encounter while on the run. Salazar brings across a tough and smart Brenda, someone who has learnt to survive the hard way, but along with that she shows the character’s frailties too which makes us feel a connect with her. Giancarlo Esposito is another newcomer to the series, playing Brenda’s mentor, who leaves an impression. Aidan Gillen makes for a fearful antagonist as Janson, while Patricia Clarkson gets little to do as Ava Paige.
The final movie of the trilogy, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, will thankfully not be a two-part saga as most of the popular young-adult movies have concluded. We’ll however have to wait a bit longer to see the finale, as the movie is right now scheduled for a February 2017 release. I hope Wes Ball does not get too involved in ‘character arcs’ and instead cranks up the notch further on the pace and action of the movie. Let’s conclude this in style!