By Darin Skaggs
Wes Ball’s The Scorch Trials is the follow up to the Young Adult adaptation The Maze Runner in which young children are located in a small grassed area that is surrounded by a gigantic walled maze. In Scorch Trials our heroes have escaped the evil corporation WCKD and been seemingly rescued by an organization that houses our group and other people who have escaped other maze arenas. Every day they take a handful of the teenagers to what is referred to as “paradise.” Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), the unappointed leader for the main cast, has other plans, and with the help of his group and a few newcomers they break out of the false safe haven after finding out it is still WCKD, using these kids, draining their fluids to find the cure for the plague that has inhabited the Earth.
The whole premise here is silly and doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is completely baffling why they have all these mysteries surrounding the plot and characters of this movie with little to no pay off. That is the big problem here, the first one was interesting, had a fun enough gimmick to keep you interested. This movie has no real gimmick, the whole movie is just basically what people think of LOST, so many mysteries that are never answered and if they are they just raise more questions. Except with good looking adults this one has good looking teenager characters. Unlike LOST however, the movie has no real character moments and only has the guts to kill off a character we just met and never really got enough screen time to feel any connection when he goes.
The movie knows it does not have an interesting premise like the previous, nor does it have fully fledged characters. So what does it do to fill in the blank spaces? Really great action scenes. This film has wall to wall action that is surprisingly good. If you like characters running from danger and escaping certain death by just the last second, this movie is for you. It even finds moments that bring genuine terror to you with the people who have been plagued by the apocalyptic disease who are basically zombies. They look terrifying and run at full speed chasing down our main heroes. There is nothing new here, but it is done incredibly well. The movie also builds the tension to these scenes to where you feel that our heroes are in real danger. Unfortunately many of these scenes are followed up with something that does not work with the flow of the film. In the trailer Thomas is seen running down a hall before a giant door closes and he is trapped with WCKD, he just barely makes it. Then he looks at Janson (Aidan Gillen), the leader in this whole set up, through a little window and decides to flip him off. The scene was cool, tense and you felt triumph when Thomas made it over, then he goes and does something immature. He goes down to their level and it just feels awkward. There are plenty of moments like this one that don’t really flow with what the movie is going for.
With little going on besides the action in the post-apocalyptic waste land, it does find its own moments of creativity like that freaky party scene or the crazy lightning storm that seems like it was ripped straight from Mad Max: Fury Road but chronologically could not have been, I think. There are tons of great little cameos in this movie the previously mentioned Gillen and Giancharlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame. Now none of the acting is great, I blame the script giving nothing really emotional to do especially Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) who was in the previous film and here is just the character assigned to asking the questions that lead to a character giving us exposition. At times it seems the only directions the adults got is “Make it obvious that you are lying, so the people know you are not trustworthy.” The Scorch Trials is nowhere near bad, and sadly nowhere near great, but if you like action it just might be worth your time.