The Scorch Trials (2015)

Still running.
Still running.

“The Maze was Only the Beginning”

Directed by Wes Ball
Starring  Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Rose Salazar, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Jacob Lofland, Aiden Gillen and Giancarlo Esposito

Thomas (O’Brien) and the other Gladers are brought to a staging area in a desert known as ‘the Scorch’, where Theresa (Scodelario) is taken away an the rest are given food and bunks. Thomas is uneasy, however, and together with a boy named Aris (Lofland) from another Maze, uncovers the links between their benefactor Janson (Gillen) and WCKD, forcing the group to go on the run once more, rather than be ‘harvested’.

They flee across the Scorch in search of the ‘Right Arm’, a resistance group rumoured to live in the mountains, but find only Cranks – zombie-like victims of the Flare virus – and a band of scavengers led by Jorge (Esposito) and his ersatz daughter Brenda (Salazar). The latter have a lead on the Arm, via dissolute blackmarketeer Marcus (Alan Tudyk) and the group does find its way to a resistance band, just in time for one of their own to sell them out.

What’s wrong with it?

That brief synopsis there? That’s the entire two hour movie. This thing is hella long and not a great deal happens. Moreover, a whole lot of that nothing much happens in dark places lit by flashlights held by people who are running. It’s actually kind of hard on the nerves.

Theresa was the great weakness of The Maze Runner, and continues to be so here. She’s essentially passive throughout, and only suffers from the introduction of other, more interesting female characters. She is given little additional background until after she is revealled as the traitor, and as a result ends up as little more than a cypher, with nothing much to recommend her besides her perfect hair.

The maze tests still make little sense. We’re told that the immune produce an enzyme that can be harvested to temporarily halt the progression of the disease in the infected, but it’s not clear why the Maze helps with the harvesting of the barrier enzyme, nor why quite so many groups are being extracted at once given that it seemed to depend on ‘solving’ the Maze and having a whole bunch of high-level staff on site to pretend to have been murdered. The Scorch Trial itself is much less stage-managed than in the books, which means that the whole rescue was just to position the immune to be harvested, which could as easily have been done with some knockout gas and a couple of big lads with a stretcher.

They keep talking about the Flare ‘virus’, but it acts more like a parasite, growing inside the victim. Also, it’s alien. I think. Okay, cards on the table, I can’t remember if the alien was something Thomas saw, something Thomas dreamed, or something I dreamed that Thomas dreamed during a slow bit. It was that kind of day.

There is a tendency for Thomas to be the only active agent in the film. None of the other Gladers – including top Runner Min Ho (Lee) and erstwhile leader Newt (Brodie-Sangster) – do anything much without him giving the lead. Say what you like about Theresa’s betrayal, at least it was off her own bat.

If the immune aren’t actually immune then what’s the point? How did they rule out Brenda if immunity is variable?

Marcus’s place is a weird gig. I mean, I get his plan is to get kids drunk and sell them to WCKD, but it’s a bit much.

What’s right with it?

The shattered cityscape of the Scorch is beautifully realised.

The young actors are all pretty good.

How bad is it really?

After the fairly impressive The Maze Runner, this second installment is just too ponderous. It doesn’t have enough progression to warrant its two hour runtime, and has too many little digressions, like a two minute driving shot only for the group to immediately ditch the car at a blocked road almost immediately after getting it.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Thomas and Brenda flees through darkened tunnels and emerge into the light. Immediately forced to scramble up a pile of broken masonry, the shots show the flashlights still winking and gleaming in their hands, because you wouldn’t think to turn them off.

What’s up with…?

  • Aris? How did Aris get taken by WCKD when the rest of his group ended up with the Arm?
  • The rifts? How did a virus tear vast chasms in the earth?

Ratings

Production values – The film is gorgeous, I can’t deny it, and the Cranks are gloriously horrid. The wasteland chic outfits are, admittedly, a little too chic at times. 4
Dialogue and performances – The dialogue is unspectacular, but nicely delivered. 7
Plot and execution – The film rambles terribly to get the characters a comparatively short distance, and doesn’t do much in the way of development in the meantime. 15
Randomness – The Flare virus is really weird. There’s something about solar storms in there as well, and I think maybe aliens (if I didn’t dream them,) but… I don’t know. Maybe it will all come clean in the third movie. 12
Waste of potential – I’ve not read the second book, but I know this strayed pretty far from the meticulously controlled bastardry of the novel, so there might have been something more coherent that they could have done. 10

Overall 49%

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