Walking into the theater this past week, it was Admiral Ackbar’s voice ringing inside my head … “It’s a Trap!” I immediately said to myself, “Look, this may not be my cup of tea, but that’s not what this job is all about.” As time ticked closer and closer to the start of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, it became quite evident that this film was not going bring the typical throng of critics to review it. Ackbar’s tocsin rang again.
The lack of buzz at this screening was utterly surprising to me as the original Maze Runner was well reviewed and well received when it was released. Maze Runner, in its opening weekend, brought in $32.5 million during it’s opening weekend, an amazing success given the film’s budget of $34 million. The picture ended up with a total domestic box-office of $102 million. That may seem like 20th Century Fox made quite a great deal of profit on that film, but remember that a lot of those totals domestically are frontloaded. So, with all of these bits of information rattling in my brain, I still was struggling to figure out why they would go through with a sequel to Maze Runner. Then the number 238 popped into the discussion, as in $238 million in ticket sales for Maze Runner internationally. You add all that up and Maze Runner made a mind blowing $348 million dollars total. That’s enough money that even if the 2nd and 3rd movies just tanked at the box-office, 20th Century Fox would still turn a profit on the whole franchise. So once this became evident, it at least made clear why I was sitting in the theater trudging through yet another sequel to a popular YA novel.
As wonderful as the original Maze Runner was, it’s a painful revelation when you realize in the first ten minutes of the film that Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is an unoriginal, conventional adaptation of the second book. Thomas (Dylan O’brien) and his fellow suriviors have been rescued from the maze with promises of a new life once matters run their course. Thomas quickly finds out that there is no new life for any of them and they quickly dash out into the post-apocalyptic “Scorch.” The rest of the film has Thomas running from one apocalyptic scenario to another one while trying to stay away from zomb…..errrrrrrr I mean “Cranks” that roam the land. Of course, Thomas has his friends on this quest trying to find this rumored resistance, the one group of people that can help rectify all their issues ( I know … I know .. we’ve never heard that plot device before). It all comes to head to during an all too familiar final battle sequence that leads to highly predictable set up to the final film.
This movie is a robust 131 minutes and it feels like its 431 minutes .The character interaction you do see is primarily during action sequences. As for any stunning revelations, all we really get is confirmation of what we already knew in the first film. Patricia Clarkson plays the standard icy blonde female authoritarian figure, which seems to be now standard in all of these films.
Wes Ball should receive kudos for the production elements in his second installment of the Maze Runner trilogy. This movie has a big budget look about it and, as we all well know, first impressions are everything. The imagery in some of the scenes are, for a lack of better term, quite terrifying, which aids in projecting the sheer hopelessness that life on the scorch apparently is. The problem with this film lies solely in the script. As we go through this adventure with Thomas and his crew, we find that these plot advancements truly don’t add up to much at all. It’s as if they were sitting in the writing room crafting this script and they were like “Whatever .. let’s just work on that during the third film.” A franchise that seemed destined to be a unique trilogy has become nothing more than Divergent meets a maze.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials can be summed up in one word: placeholder. 20th Century Fox is essentially telling the audience “Hey … guys … just bare with us and it will all make sense in the third movie.” As someone who reviews films, I’m getting sick and tired of movie companies producing these cookie-cutter placeholder films. We as the consumers should demand better quality films from companies like 20th Century Fox. I get that you want to stay true to the original source material, but that doesn’t give you a right to make films that are a waste of space. Essentially, 20th Century Fox wants to trap you into seeing the second film with promises that they will make it worth your while in the third.