This follow-up to last year’s adaptation of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner—one of the better post-apocalyptic young-adult entries—suffers by ditching the maze, which provided the first flick with structure and a compelling mystery, and was a novel setting to boot. The Scorch Trials lacks those features, and so proves only reasonably entertaining.
When last we saw scrappy teen Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), he and the other teen males (and lone teenage girl) who had inhabited the center of the maze and survived its dangers were rescued. Now, after a stay in the rescuers’ alleged safe haven, they escape the place and flee into the solar flare-scorched wasteland beyond, where they encounter dangers both human and not so human.
Minus the maze, the movie feels scattered. There’s no clear, single-minded narrative that was the teens’ want to get out of the maze. They just seem to wander about and randomly wind up at various places. What’s more, the dystopian world the maze refreshingly prevented us from seeing, and which the teens are actually out in now, looks and feels like every other dystopian world.
Among the saving graces here are some interesting-for-a-post-apocalyptic-flick performances, namely that of Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring on Breaking Bad), who makes his leader of a group of survivors intriguing and infinitely watchable. I would also mention Alan Tudyk, funny and wacky as a club owner, and Lili Taylor, nicely sensitive as a resistance-group leader.
As for everyone else, O’Brien remains capably scrappy and someone to root for, head bad guys Aidan Gillen and big bad Patricia Clarkson are bad-guy generic, and the supporting teens, as before, lack personality (though Mud’s Jacob Lofland stands out briefly as a long-time resident of said supposed safe haven).
We could blame returning director Wes Ball for the lack of character color, but he at least makes up for it with some decent action—including the escape from Esposito’s desert hideout as bad guys attack it—and some truly frightening moments involving hordes of Cranks, this franchise’s version of zombies, which I would not want to encounter now or after the sun sears the surface of the Earth. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 12/15/15