Maze Runner: Scorch Trials picks up right where the first movie left off and, as before, Thomas’ curiosity is what changes the fate of our heroes. For with everyone desperate for a reason to have hope, for themselves, as well as others, they place their faith Thomas and hope his leadership doesn’t lead to their doom.
Characters & Story
After escaping the maze, and seemingly being saved by Mr. Janson’s (Aidan Gillen) company, it seems the maze’s alumni may finally be safe. Though this assumption is short lived. If only because one weird kid, named Aris (Jacob Lofland), seems to have discovered the truth. Thus leading Thomas’ (Dylan O’Brien) curiosity to start pumping and leading to him, the maze alumni, alongside newcomers like Winston (Alexander Flores) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) to escape out into the Scorch in order to find the Right Hand.
Along the way, they encounter weird zombie-like beings, similar to what you may have seen in The Last of Us, alongside many different human settlements. The two that matter though are the ones ran by Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar), as well as the one run by Dr. Mary (Lili Taylor) and Vince (Barry Pepper). For these are the characters who will help decide whether Thomas and co., will find salvation and freedom, or become damn near like cattle waiting to be harvested.
The main objective with any sequel is to up the ante and, when it comes to the action element, Scorch Trials succeeds in this. For while the first movie featured a lot of running, fighting robotic scorpions, and had a similar amount of “Will so-and-so live to the end of the movie?” this film seems to take it to the next level. This can be seen with the increase of human vs. human, or human vs. creature. For while running is still a big part of the series, for the amount of scenes being chased are probably tripled, now they are facing off with one another, using guns, or their fist, and while it seems they sacrificed getting to know the characters better for this, it is hard not to just stare at the screen and be slightly amazed.
Switching to the topic of the story, like the first film, probably one of Scorch Trials top things to praise is that it keeps things relatively diverse when it comes to the cast. For with the addition of Frypan, Jorge, and I guess Brenda would count as well, once more there is a representative for quite a few ethnic groups. Which, again, shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but considering how pale a lot of these YA novel adaptions are, or how much a lot of them regulate their people of color to short appearances, having non-white characters be the reason for the life or death of the lead I feel is worth noting.
But to focus on the actual story, I must say that even with, as noted, not much time to get to know the characters, I do feel that the uncovering of Thomas’ past, Teresa’s (Kaya Scodelario) decision, as well as how Brenda’s character is handled, helped make it so this wasn’t like a video game with all the cut scenes cut out. Though, with that said, this movie definitely was on the level of me wondering why there hasn’t been a video game based off this franchise. Especially in the form of a TellTale Games type of adaptation.
As said with the first film, nothing about this film will make you feel like Scorch Trials is trying to break the mold. Thomas remains a Rambo type of lead who, no matter what the obstacle, you never feel like he is ever in any serious trouble. Then, on top of that, once again you get a situation in which you can see the story decides to focus on one or two new characters just to build them up so that when the movie decides to try its hand at making things emotional, they may snag you. Issue is, while this film does well for presenting its action elements, it remains as shallow as ever on the emotional side of things. For while you recognize that, for example, Teresa is hurting due to what happened to her mom; that Brenda is still troubled by losing her brother, and that her and Jorge’s relationship is similar to that of a father and daughter; as well as Thomas not wanting to lose anyone who basically has become his new family, everything seems to be more so a fact you are told, than something you can see and feel. Assuming that makes sense.
Lastly, when it comes to the villains and monsters of the film, I’d be damn if they didn’t feel generic. I mean, say that I typecast him, but Gillen as Mr. Janson just seems so similar to how he plays Lord Baelish on Game of Thrones that from the very start he doesn’t seem to trust worthy. Then, when it comes to the monsters of the Scorch, honestly I was looking at them and thinking that Sony may have a case to sue since their monsters look like Clickers before their heads resemble something similar to a blooming flower.
Overall: TV Viewing
While there are improvements, it does seem that with a bigger universe comes a bit less character focus  and that is perhaps the main thing which took away the possibility of making this “Worth Seeing.” For while the action is top notch, the character development is sparse and done just enough so that if someone’s life is threatened, maybe you’ll end up caring a little bit. Though the main issue is just the fact the villains of the film are just so uninspiring and even with their justifiable reasoning for being placed in the villain position, there is little to no ambiguity in their performances to see their side of things.
Hence the TV Viewing label for while this has the action of a summer blockbuster, it also only talks about the characters, or what is happening, on an as needed basis. Leaving you with just one action scene after another, a short break for the film to set up the next chase, more action, maybe a tidbit or two about a character, and chase again. A formula which will keep you entertained, but ultimately leave you to think that, for the full story, you’ll have to read the book.
Things To Note
: Despite Newt’s (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) role in the first film, he pretty much is almost a background character now. One who questions Thomas’ curiosity, and yet is usually the first ones to join him in his madness. Also, when it comes to Minho (Ki-hong Lee), it is pretty much the same situation but Minho kicks a lot more ass throughout the film and gets shown off when it comes to such skills.