Based on the young adult science fiction novel by James Dashner, The Maze Runner was a hit at the box office last year, generating over $340 million worldwide. The movie has a great concept: a group of boys is mysteriously stranded outdoors with the only hope of escape being a giant maze that opens its doors every morning long enough for designated “runners” to search it. They must return before nightfall, though, because no one has survived it at night.
It’s an intriguing mystery. One boy arrives each month with no memories via an underground elevator, but from where do they come? Why are they there? It’s soon clear that they’re being tested, but for what reason and by whom? How was the maze built? It’s all enough of a puzzle to sustain an entire movie. Unfortunately, the second chapter, The Scorch Trials, doesn’t… well, have a maze. It continues the story ably enough, but is sprawling, unfocused and too long.
Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf) is back as Thomas, the de facto leader of the last movie’s survivors, plus a few others who were apparently involved in similar maze experiments. They’ve all been gathered in a facility promising their return home. It takes them a while to realize that Aidan Gillen usually plays a bad guy and his character, Janson, has ulterior motives for them. So, before long, they’re running again, this time across a post-apocalyptic wasteland “scorched” by a giant solar flare.
I’m willing to suspend disbelief in a movie like The Scorch Trials; however, it has some serious geographic flaws. Between the facility and the mountains they’re trying to reach lies a decimated city. Much time is spent on the runners getting from the city to the mountains; they constantly talk about how far it is. However, when they arrive at the foot of the mountains, and then must later flee from there as well, they’re suddenly back in the city. What happened to the long journey?
With that complaint, though, I’m still happy to say I’m glad they returned to the city. That’s where the movie’s most exciting scene unfolds. Inside a fallen skyscraper that’s leaning precariously against one still standing, Thomas and one of the mountain rebels, Branda (Rosa Salazar), try to escape without falling to their deaths. It’s very exciting, even though not terribly original. I’m pretty sure it borrows elements from at least one other movie that’s come before it.
Here I flip-flop, because of the reason they’re in the building in the first place: zombies. It’s a shame zombies have become so pervasive in pop culture; instead of shock, their appearance now elicits groans. At least these zombies can be disposed by means other than chopping off their heads. And, although they play a major part in the story, at least they appear in only a couple of scenes. It’s Janson and his army from WICKED who are the real villains here.
I’m just not interested in the large-scale battles that occur when WICKED and the rebels ultimately meet. By now, the story has lost the intimacy of the first movie, even though it tries to get us more invested in the characters through memories that resurface and relationships that build. I guess I’m just not in the market for another “saga” and it’s time for me to drop out of this one. I’m not sure I’ll even return for the final chapter, The Death Cure, when it comes out at this time next year.