Thursday, September 24, 2015

[Review] Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Here comes the sequel to The Maze Runner--the film series based on a set of YA novels that seem to occupy a space in The Hunger Games' shadow. The first film failed to establish its own world and suffered from "setup for the sequel" syndrome. Now, The Scorch Trails is bigger, intense-er, and more action-packed, but the whole thing still feels a little flat and can't get past its inherent flaws.

Picking up right where the last one left off, because the last one didn't really have a solid ending, Jonathan (Dylan O'Brien) and his fellow "Gladers" which include Thomas Sangster ("Game of Thrones") and Ki Hong Lee ("Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt") are transferred to a fortress run by a guy named Janson (Aidan Gillen, also "Game of Thrones"). There, they learn some disturbing information about a secretive diabolical organization called WCKD (Illuminati?). When they escape, they find themselves in another menacing maze of obstacles.

It's easy to wonder what the legitimate motivation behind the premises for these contemporary YA things are. They're prickly on metaphorical levels, so instead they come off as "What if?" situations. What if a bunch of young kids were tossed into an arena and forced to fight to the death? What if a bunch of young kids had their memories erased and were tossed into a giant, dangerous maze? It's forced spectacle -- spectacle that's drab and filled with depth-less characters and loads of exposition. And if there is meaning behind The Scorch Trials, I can't help but think it's all an allegory for sadistic hazing methods.

The Scorch Trials is crowded with filler, the action can get a bit tiring, and once again, there's an unsatisfying cliffhanger of an ending, so it never feels like a full-bodied feature. Yes, it does offer some thrills, a handful of the visuals (and creatures) are cool, and some new and intriguing characters are introduced later on (including another person from "Game of Thrones"). It's probably a fine theater experience for the fans of this stuff, but it just never is able to reach the next level. It's standing in its own way.


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