The world can’t get enough of young adult dystopian flicks, as Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Wes Ball’s follow-up to last year’s enjoyable The Maze Runner, lands on UK screens. Starring Dylan O’Brien as protagonist Thomas, Maze Runner is an adaptation of Jame Dashner’s highly successful book series of the same name.
Following their escape from the maze and subsequent break-out from a WCKD-ran institution, Thomas (O’Brien) and his band of merry Gladers – Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Winston (Alexander Flores) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) – look to find the “safe haven” founded by resistance group The Right Arm.
The World Catastrophe Killzone Department (WCKD) – the organisation responsible for their stay in the maze – led by Dr Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) and her deputy-type, Janson (Aidan Gillen) – are on the Gladers’ tail as Thomas and company navigate the dangerous terrains of the ‘Scorch’ to find their new home.
Despite its straight-edged approach, last year’s series opener was enjoyable YA fare. Devoid of a funny bone, its ruthlessness – encapsulated by O’Brien’s never-changing serious face – along with a compact structure and its community-based nature, made The Maze Runner an interesting enough spectacle. Ball’s follow-up – longer, looser and hell of a lot less interesting – runs into Divergent/Insurgent levels of run-of-the-mill dystopian action.
Full of zombie-like creatures, under-dramatic chase sequences and unnecessary filler, The Scorch Trials feels like Ball picked the scraps off of The Hunger Games and Divergent series’ cutting room floors and threw them together. For over two hours we’re gifted a lacklustre ride through the supposedly dangerous ‘Scorch’ – desolate land now lived on by Cranks (zombie-types affected by the flare virus). “You won’t last a day in the Scorch” warns our male antagonist, Mr. Janson, yet the lack of threat – until the very end – appears remarkably minimal to our band of young escapees.
It’s question-raising opening and lively campfire shoot-em-up finale – a long with O’Brien’s continued impressive seriousness – offers hope, yet its over-stretched, far-too-long-for-its-own-good middle third – full of boredom and unoriginality – leave us painfully tired out for a surprisingly inspiring final scene.
After an impressive start, Maze Runner has, oh-so-disappointingly, taken one giant leap backwards into the ever-increasing land of YA novel film adaptation mediocrity. We learn little, we enjoy even less, but hey – it’s still more fun than Divergent.