Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Running time: 131 mins
Release date: September 10th
Remember that movie about the group of good-looking teens who live in a weirdly suspect dystopian future, then they discover that the people in charge are evil jerks so they break free of the system that they’re trapped in and bring the fight all the way to the top? I think it’s The Hunger Games. No wait, Divergent. Or is it The Giver? Oh yeah, it’s all of them. It’s also the Maze Runner series, so if you’re not a fan of this oddly one-note genre then this might not convert you. If you haven’t seen The Maze Runner then forget it completely, as Scorch Trials picks up exactly where the first film left off and expects you to know what’s going on. If, however, you don’t mind all this young adult totalitarian rebellion stuff then this series, and this movie in particular, are enjoyable enough.
Dylan O’Brien (star of MTV’s Teen Wolf, apparently) is back as Thomas, who led a small gang of guys and token hottie Kaya Scodelario to freedom from the first film’s titular maze. Now they’ve shacked up with Aidan Gillen, whose behaviour is as suspicious as his accent. Inevitably they find themselves once again on the run from WCKD – yes, pronounced ‘wicked’, with the characters’ constant ridiculous repetition of the name making it sound like they’re being chased by an army of henchmen being fuelled by dayglo alcopops. Their journey takes them through some impressively rendered post-apocalyptic vistas (the so-called ‘Scorch’) and has them meet a cast of fun actors including Gus Fring himself Giancarlo Esposito. There’s some great action too, mostly provided by the films ‘infected’, as though someone stuck a few pages from the unmade script of 28 Months Later into the middle of this one. Fans of The Last of Us should enjoy its most adrenaline-fuelled sequence as our heroes are chased through a derelict skyscraper by half-plant screaming monstrosities.
What sets the Maze Runner series apart from other YA adaptations is that it’s not afraid to get its hands a little dirtier. It plays around with elements of horror and at some points is genuinely scary. Most of its characters’ motivations are never cut-and-dry good or bad, existing instead in some moral grey area. Even Thomas is a sketchy leader, with neither himself, nor his friends, nor the audience ever sure if he’s actually making the right choices. It’s hard to imagine Katniss Everdeen downing hallucinogenic absinthe then go wandering round a brothel, for example. In fact, the film’s slightly harder edge has earned it a 15A here meaning it weirdly risks missing its target audience. Even if that’s not you though, you might find that there’s mindless fun to be had with the Maze Runner films. Just don’t watch this one first.