Released: 26th January 2018
Directed By: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Reviewed By: Van Connor
Considering the Maze Runner books were first published nearly a decade ago now, the release of this ropey trilogy closer does beg the question of whether or not the actual fanbase for the series would have aged out of it by now. After all, a twelve year-old reading the first book would be on the cusp of graduating University by now… but, hey, Harry Potter had generation-crossing appeal, so why not this, right? The answer, astoundingly, is that the Harry Potter series at least made for an interesting set of films, which is something that can’t quite be said for this now ever-diminishing trilogy of Syfy channel bilge that began with a decent-enough Twilight Zone-esque tale and limps to what can laughably be called a conclusion with a combination of one of the Divergent movies and the Resident Evil franchise.
Passing up the chance to remind anyone old enough to buy cigarettes just what in the hell the last movie was about, The Death Cure opens with a sequence lifted straight out of Fast Five, in which our post-apocalyptic teen heroes attempt to liberate a group of their fellow teens from captivity aboard a train. Failing to rescue one of their number, a splinter group of the teens – led by the always visibly-confused Dylan O’Brien – set out to rescue their comrade from “the last city”, whilst the adult (re. evil) rulers of that city conspire to use said teens for their promised immunity to the zombie virus that has the world under siege. This, incidentally, is plotting that you sort of piece together as you go – unless you happened to watch the first movies recently – as, again, The Death Cure absolutely fails to remind you of anything that took place in one of three YA franchise instalments you saw two years ago.
The strangest part of experiencing The Death Cure without being well and truly embedded within its mythology is the overriding sense that everybody involved feels that this is some kind fo groundbreaking franchise picture, the sort of eyebrow-raising delusion the Hunger Games series more or less got away with, but did so largely by virtue of being the biggest game in town at the time. Here though, that misguided sense of mythological grandeur feels instead like its source material is tripping the film up at every available opportunity, knocking any sense of logic, pacing, or reason out of its hands as it does so. It’s the sort of movie that introduces characters dressed entirely in black and then expects you to be startled when they turn out to be evil, that ignores previously mentioned satellites in favour of drones because (presumably) kids are, like, well big on drones, and builds to a conclusion so hilariously poor in its conception that you’re almost begging for there to be a worse-case-scenario sequel literally consisting of nothing more than a beach commune being slowly and thoroughly massacred by zombies.
O’Brien continues his one-man crusade to popularise the technique Friends once parodied as “smell the fart acting”, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any of his similarly-aged co-stars to be memorable enough for any real criticism, save for maybe Rosa Salazar, and even then purely for the virtue of being faintly charming. The adult cast, meanwhile, autopilot though proceedings as if they’re reading their dialogue Brando-style off Post-It notes dotted around the set, and when even an augmented Walton Goggins can’t inject some life into things, you know you’re in for a rough ride.
Perhaps the worst part of The Death Cure however, is that it simply goes on and on – making for the somewhat brilliant irony that a movie built around a literal quest seems to go nowhere. Series director Wes Ball seems to be in on this, suffering from visible fatigue – here ditching that moment of flare he brought to the Alien sequence that’s also the only thing you remember about the last movie – and going for such a pedestrian production that it’s hard not to overlook how a significant chunk of it has clearly been filmed in some nondescript Vancouver university campus. All of which pales in contrast to the manner in which a third act reveal proclaims the single most obvious plot development this side of the usual “the answer was inside you all along” cop-out, and if you can distinguish its big “rescue” moment from the average Syfy season finale, frankly, you deserve way way better than The Death Cure has to offer.
Alas, it’s over. Not with a whimper, but a half a whimper. May whatever fans it has truly enjoy every moment of it, because, god knows, nobody else will.