Film Review | Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Near the end of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the sequel to Wes Ball’s decent YA adaptation The Maze Runner, the main character declares “I’m tired of running”. It’s a telling piece of dialogue that can be applied to this overlong sequel, which is sorely lacking in the necessary character and narrative legwork. It makes for the worst kind of middle chapter; one that you have to watch, but isn’t really all that compelling.
We immediately rejoin Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Teresa (Kaya Scoledario) and the other Gladers who are now being transported to a remote complex following their escape from the maze. While his compatriots are all too happy with finally having hot showers, a bed, and more provided by the shifty man in charge Janson (Game of Thrones’ Aiden Gillen), Thomas is instantly suspicious of their new surroundings. It isn’t long before his instincts are proved correct, and the film’s best scene sees Thomas and the Gladers escaping the underground facility, emerging into the desolate and unforgiving Scorch.
The ensuing trek across the desert gives Ball more freedom to show off the world, and for all the film’s faults the production design is above reproach. However, where contained environments fostered consistently exciting sequences, Scorch Trials is only fitfully entertaining when Thomas & co are in the Scorch. The pacing of the second act is simply lacklustre; crazed zombie-like creatures called Cranks replace the Grievers of the first film as suitably scary foes, but the constant running quickly becomes boring. It doesn’t help that some of the circumstances our characters find themselves in feel lazily contrived. Indeed, there are times when Scorch Trials feels like the equivalent of a poorly developed next-generation video game; we get a bigger map with prettier environments, but the objectives you have to accomplish grow tiresome and become repetitive.
This would not be such an issue if the character work were strong enough, but T.S. Nowlin’s adapted screenplay come up short. O’Brien is a capable, at times impressively emotive lead, and Scoledario’s Teresa – in addition to franchise newcomers Rosa Salazar and Giancarlo Esposito – all have their moments to shine. However, almost every other member of Thomas’ troupe is forgettable, with nary a memorable line of dialogue between them. That’s bad enough after one film, but to have that still be the case two films into the franchise is disappointing.
A well-made slog, Scorch Trials doesn’t do enough with its characters or story to sustain momentum over its bloated 131 minute run time. Only our completest nature has us curious as to how this franchise will conclude.