Sep 28, 2015

[Movies] Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

So the only reason we eventually watched The Maze Runner was because we had already gone to see Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials with my sister because reasons. It's always a little weird when you watch a sequel out of sequence, but these sorts of movies are predictable enough to keep decent enough pegs on even without that sort of prior knowledge.

And as far as this movie goes, it's definitely one of those adaptations where I don't exactly feel all too obligated to read up on the books that the movies were based on. Call me unappreciative or whatever, but the story doesn't quite hook me in too well and there are just so many quirky loopholes and inconsistencies in the plot that it's a little hard to take things seriously.

I was a bit more impressed by some of the actors that participated in this sequel. It's not like there were a crazy number of memorable faces here, but the ones that did join in had more than their fair share of acting in such genre movies, especially those of the science fiction variety.

Synopsis: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a 2015 science fiction action movie directed by Wes Ball. The screenplay was written by T.S. Nowlin based on the the books written by James Dashner.

After the events of The Maze Runner, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his friends have just been rescued from the maze and now brought to some underground facility managed by Mr. Janson (Aidan Gillen). This is some sort of a safe haven run away from the reach of WCKD, the organization that had been behind the maze. It also keeps the inhabitants safe from the Flare virus and the resulting creatures known as the Cranks. They they meet survivors of other mazes and all wait for their chance to be selected by Janson and brought to some sort of promised land.

But Thomas is instinctively suspicious about things, especially the fact that Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) had been separated from the rest of the group and they had received no news as to what she was up to. In time he gets help from one of the residents of the facility, Aris (Jacob Lofland) and they discover that this is still another WCKD facility and Janson works for the organization. In addition, the head of WCKD Ava (Patricia Clarkson) is very much alive despite the video that left Thomas to believe that she was dead.

If the first movie felt like a weird twist on The Hunger Games format, this Scorch Trials sequel feels more like The Last of Us or The Walking Dead. The focus has shifted from an impractically big and scary maze to a world with a virus of sorts that turns people into zombie-like creatures. And it seems to follow that whole angle of "plant zombies" like The Last of Us down to them using sound to track prey and of course the haphazard chase scenes through fallen skyscrapers and such. It all felt a little old hat.

In the first movie the gimmick action was slipping past doors just as they're almost fully closed. In this movie it was more about hastily erected barricades. And while you can argue that it only happened like 2-3 times in the movie, each time felt unusually prominent that it almost seemed like a signature movie in the making. Just found out that you're in a facility run by WCKD? Quickly start stacking mattresses against the door even before you can fully explain what's going on to your friends, who probably think you're going crazy. Zombies on your tail? Stop running and create another barricade that will be overwhelmed in less than five minutes. Such fun.

It's also sad how the bulk of the supporting cast has pretty much lost most if not all sense of agency in this movie. In the first movie they were all pretty headstrong in their own way and had their own general roles to fulfill. This time around a lot of the sequences would bog down with all the guys standing around Thomas and waiting for him to tell them what's going on or what to do. It's as if they lost all capability to have thoughts of their own and thus need Thomas to interpret the world for them and figure out what they should do next.

Naturally the moments I enjoyed the most included Alan Tudyk being his crazy little self and Giancarlo Esposito once again playing a somewhat grim father in a cutthroat, post-apocalyptic world. He had a similar role in Revolution and thus having him do almost the same things here was a little funny. Then we had Lili Taylor as Dr. Mary Cooper - I last remember her in a different leadership sort of role in Almost Human, but that's about it.

By the end of the movie, you end up wondering why you just lost over two hours of your life to this odd journey film with really bad markmen and some classic black/white imagery thrown into the mix. The plot sort of meanders around for the most of the movie and eventually just ends on a sort of non-twist in order to save something for the third installment in the franchise. And while that isn't necessarily bad in itself, you can't help but wish that they left more meat in this part of the story instead of all the endless chase sequences and really long desert crossings presented as montages.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is part of a franchise that I can't find a reason to invest my time, effort and loyalty to but then I'm not exactly obligated to either. But hey at least I watched it and I got myself a few laughs, whether or not they were appropriate to the moment. Thus the movie only gets 1.5 silly running sequences out of a possible 5.

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