The Maze Runner came around very close-by to Divergent, but the difference is, it was a halfway decent critical success. It wasn’t acclaim, but it was at least mixed. Not only that, but for a budget half of what Divergent cost, The Maze Runner grossed even more and showed impressive hold overseas. That, and my experience as I watched the film, led me enough to believe Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials would be a breakout film for the franchise, moving it up in the ranks as one of the big-boys. But, as I watched the film in theaters, I started to wonder if I ever really liked the first film to begin with.
That’s an awfully heavy-handed comment, a sequel’s so bad it even brings down the first one, but I mean it.
The Scorch Trials follows where the first left-off, and now, it’s the Scorch Trials, and we’re offered more about the adversary our group is faced against. The whole dynamic is very run-of-the-mill in-terms of antagonist. The Scorch Trials does not create a formidable antagonist and does nothing to stand-out. I thought Maze Runner was a step-above most young adult film-adaptations, but as far as bad guy versus good guy goes, this one plummets. The mystique behind The Maze isn’t here, and it falls into safe-ground, but I will credit the film for at least taking some chances. Unlike the first, Scorch dedicates a lot of time to a virus that essentially turns folk into crazed zombies. A big change from what we saw in the 2014 film, and what they do with it isn’t bad. Rather, it’s ho-hum and offers nothing new to where it treads. It’s unexpected for a young adult film to have zombies and deal with darker subject-matter, but that doesn’t mean any of it is worthwhile. The zombies are uninspired, with special-effect enhancements, and aren’t dealt in any way that hasn’t already been done better by someone else.
I think the most heart-breaking aspect about this film though, is the characters. Will Poulter was around in the first flick and offered a worthy contrast to Dylan O’Brien. That worked then, but with him gone, O’Brien feels like a fish-out-of-water that doesn’t seem to connect with the audience as a strong leading character, and the film itself does him no favors. He isn’t allow much time to show charisma or enthusiasm, but in the few times he does, the emotion never really means anything because it’s not assisted by what leads to it. The character’s are generic and cookie-cutter, and worse off than that, it’s the lazy way each character is given development, like the classic movie cliché of someone carrying around a memento or a photograph before some tedious anecdote of how they lost them. The cinematography and the music help with the themes, but when you’re foundation is shoddy, consistency doesn’t really count for much.
The film’s saving grace is the action-scenes. I enjoyed several of them. None of them are brilliant, but they’re the most entertaining aspect of the film by a hefty margin.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials fails at capturing the mystique and uniqueness of its predecessor, and instead, it offers: ho-hum characters and dialogue, uninspired themes and events, and a narrative I find myself unable to invest in.
Rating: Below Average