Reviewer: Hayley Mackay (@lilmac4)
Director: Wes Ball
Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Released: 18th September 2015 (UK)
Having escaped the dreaded maze, the Gladers stagger into dystopia in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. Picking up directly after the events of the previous instalment, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the rest of the Gladers are airlifted to a heavily fortified facility, which offers an apparent safe haven in the midst of the Scorch, a vast, searing wasteland. It is upon their arrival here that we get our first glimpse of the Cranks who, infected by a horrific disease called the Flare, roam the ruined remains of the civilized world.
As his fellow Gladers embrace their new digs, where they are promised relocation to a sanctuary away from the devastation that surrounds them, Thomas grows increasingly suspicious of their liberators. With the help of Aris (Jacob Lofland), a survivor of another maze and one of the facilities longest residents, Thomas begins to see the true colours of their hosts as he unravels their hostile intentions. Soon the group is fighting for their freedom yet again, and along with Aris, their new recruit, the Gladers are thrust into the sparse and blistering Scorch, where they face challenges unlike any they have previously encountered.
Relentlessly hunted by WCKD (World in Catastrophe Killzone Department) the Gladers resort to their survival basics as they trek the desolate desert landscape with only a sliver of hope in the form of The Right Arm, a mysterious rebel alliance who may be their only salvation. The desert scenes are fantastically vivid and stunning to observe, as the heat, hopelessness and lack of life offer brilliant intensity. And, just when you though the Gladers had too much to deal with already, the spine chilling Cranks provide terrific thrills with their unnerving shrieks and groans, which compound the already strained tension.
A great young cast beefs out what is a legitimately decent plot, delivering performances that put the older cast members to shame. The action can however feel over dramatised at points, and some dialogue over constructed, but these moments are short lived. Dylan O’Brien is a strong lead, embodying all the vital qualities of a convincing protagonist. You never doubt his capability as Thomas confidently takes charge, leading the Gladers through harsh and unknown territory. Delivering the most notable supporting performances are Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt, Alexander Flores as Winston and Rosa Salazar as Brenda. They become the crux of the film’s emotive appeal, authentically illustrating the harsh reality of their unforgiving new world. Newt sometimes becomes the voice of reason on the odd occasion Thomas loses his composure
Context is scarce in this saga, creating considerable suspense as the limited knowledge of their circumstances puts you in the same boat as the Gladers, allowing you to experience events from their perspective. This can however become frustrating as you seek a better understanding of the narrative world as a whole, including the events that lead to the current status quo. Also, as with the first instalment, there is never any true resolution before the closing credits; instead we are presented with yet another lead-in to the next chapter, accompanied by an inevitably long wait.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is more than your average teen thriller; it is a film with genuine pulse and intensity where the stakes are life or death. The events do start to feel somewhat long-winded and become a tad messy, which is emphasized by the lack of context, and the knowledge that another instalment to follow means you won’t get all the answers now. The final twist is also frustrating as you feel that, given all the clues, at least on of the group should have seen it coming. Scorch Trials is a fun watch none-the-less, and is certainly one of the better teen sagas to grace our screens over recent years, offering less love triangle drama in lieu of weightier, real-world conflict. Fans of the massively successful PlayStation exclusive, The Last of Us (destined for its own film adaptation) will likely relish the gritty plot, especially the delightfully terrifying Cranks.