by WILLIAM WONG
Trying to fulfill expectations viewers have of the original, “Maze Runner: Scorch Trials” brings a new plot full of action and suspense to theaters.
Set in a post-apocalyptic America, the Maze Runner series takes place after a viral disease has infected humans with insanity, reverting many into a zombie-like state where all reasoning is lost. Following the course of its predecessor, “The Maze Runner,” an amnesiac Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), awakens in a glade surrounded by a gargantuan maze also containing several other people with the amnesia. After discovering that the Gladers were, in fact, placed in the maze as part of a greater scheme, Thomas along with Min Ho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) escape and discover their captors are the World in Catastrophe: Killzone Department (WCKD). The organization was created in order to harvest cells from newest generation of humans in search of immunities to create a cure for the virus.
After escaping WCKD, the Gladers are “rescued” by a resistance organization which takes the group to their base. Eventually, the group learns from a newcomer, Aris (Jacob Lofland), that the facility is actually another act in WCKD’s ploy, to gather possible specimen for the cure. Thomas and the Gladers escape once more to discover that the world is now a desolate wasteland. With limited resources, the group tries to locate The Right Arm, the true resistance army to WCKD, while avoiding the danger of the Cranks (those infected with the virus).
While the first film was a unique post-apocalyptic survival film with a distinct plot, “Scorch Trials” carries the same scenario, leaving a somewhat stale movie. Where “Maze Runner” challenged the protagonist, Thomas to escape the maze while being hunted by mechanical menaces, the sequel follows almost the exact same storyline, with slight changes of scenery from maze to wasteland. The use of Cranks in the plot also makes the film a subpar zombie survival film. In this alternate perspective, the film follows an average storyline, where the protagonist tries only to run and seek refuge, without any significant plot twists.
In opposition of its flaws, the character development from “Maze Runner” is phenomenal. Because it was a new film, the characters had room to develop in the new and diverse setting. Its sequel does a mediocre job, though it is understandable, because the film is, in fact, a sequel. There is little room for development, as most characters had already been developed in the original movie. With the exception of the protagonist, most of the other characters in the film are mere bystanders, with even secondary characters given very minor roles.
Action in the “Scorch Trials” is more extravagant than that of “Maze Runner.” While the original is based mostly on running through dangerous environments of the maze, “Scorch Trials” is more focused on fighting, whether it be against the Cranks or the weaponized WCKD soldiers.
Acting throughout the film is convincing. A central focus of the film is on O’Brien’s character, whose acting skillful ability leads viewer to believe deeply in Thomas, especially in times of hardships.
“Maze Runner: Scorch Trials” is currently in theaters and is rated PG-13. The franchise is also set to release another sequel in early 2017.