The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games have a disappointing son: The Maze Runner!
⭐ ⭐ ½
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the middle film in a trilogy based on James Dashner’s young adult novels. The same band of teenagers known as “Gladers” (played by Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee) who survived the titular maze from the first film must fight through imprisonment in an underground compound, survive blistering deserts and win over resistance fighters in order to uncover the truth behind an enigmatic organisation known as W.C.K.D.
My criticism of The Scorch Trials is mostly centred on the over-saturation of young-adult dystopian novels that are currently being translated to film; while it cannot be denied that a market definitely exists for such franchises, The Scorch Trials is lacking the imaginative oomph of some of its contemporaries (such as The Hunger Games and Divergent). Subsequently, it feels like more of a cinematic cash cow than, say, a story that was dying to be brought to the big screen.
Most of the concepts are borrowed from elsewhere and then needlessly shoehorned into the narrative. How many times does an audience need to see post-apocalyptic versions of Earth complete with genetic experiments, zombies and/or adolescents “coming of age” as a result of death-defying experiences? This film blatantly cobbles together parts from other sources like one of Victor Frankenstein’s experiments.
The bland characters are another issue. It seems there has been more attention paid to ticking off ethnic diversity quotas than finding their motivations, personality types or developing their backstory. We have American male and female heroes, a British sidekick, an Asian fellow and later on a Hispanic resistance fighter. I would find it very difficult to describe any of the major protagonists in this film without referring to either their racial origin or occupation. I could not tell you whether they were clever, shy, abrasive, angry, troubled or witty – because it doesn’t seem like the scriptwriters put enough thought into that part of the plot.
The supporting cast perhaps have better luck with their roles. Alan Tudyk delivers a standout performance as a zany and untrustworthy club owner named Marcus. I feel it is necessary for me to level a certain amount of criticism at Aiden Gillen, whose collection of Pantomime accents all vaguely originate from Ireland, regardless of what he is actually trying to achieve. In fact, even his native Dublin cadence sounds like a man down the pub trying and failing to do a cartoony fiddle-dee-dee Irish voice.
I will admit there are some fantastic visual treats in The Scorch Trials, particularly in the scenes which feature a decaying city that immediately recall similar haunting shots in I Am Legend. It feels, however, that this is compensation for a film lacking in substance. Also can someone who has actually read the book series please explain to me what a “scorch trial” is? I watched all 131 minutes of this film (without toilet breaks) and the only exposition that explained the film’s sub-title was a passing reference to a desert. So…that’s what it was? The desert maybe features in an eighth of the film’s running time, so as a comparison it would be like calling Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire something like: “Harry Potter and the Quidditch World Cup.” It’s not a pivotal part of the film.
I would give The Scorch Trials 2.5 stars out of 5 (I feel I am being generous). I am sure fans of the series will love it, but to everyone else I say: stick to Katniss Everdeen!
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is available in Australian cinemas now
Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox