‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’ is Dystopian Rambling

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CHICAGO – Movie pundits are falling all over themselves to point out there is no maze running in “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” so buyer beware! What began in the first film as a new take in the dystopian Young Adult movie genre, has become a scattered, uninteresting mess.

Having not read the original source novels, it was impossible to distinguish what made this latest adventure so intent on expansion. When our young heroes were whisked away in the first film, it seemed like an expressionistic twist, that the curtain was about to be drawn back on something that was really amazing. But what we get in ‘The Scorch Trials’ is a series of step-by-step weigh stations, that make less sense as the journey goes on. Also, so much of the first film depended on the personalities of the kids, and in this one they’re reduced to tiny props among the big blasts of action, and there are numerous additions to the cast that had me screaming for a scorecard. In addition, there was a parade of “B” movie stars of the era, including the great Barry Pepper in a “weird beard.” All this in 131 minutes, and it seemed both too much and not enough.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is in the midst of a transition. The newly dubbed maze runner has run out of mazes, and at the beginning of the film is being whisked to an area where a bunch of similarly aged teens are being rounded up. He is with his original crew from the old mazes (those were the days), including Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Frypan (Dexter Darden), Winston (Alexander Flores) and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario).

Maze Runner 2
It’s a Hallway, Not a Maze: The Cast of ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

They are in the middle of the Scorch lands, a desolate area most likely a leftover from the wars that spawned the mazes. After escaping their captors, including the odious Janson (Aiden Gillen), they are on their own until they reach the resistance camp, which includes Dr. Mary Cooper (Lili Taylor), Vince (Barry Pepper) and more kids like them. If only they don’t run into the evil incarnate, Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), all will be well.

You may need three fingers of Scorch after you experience this relentless escape fest, which gives no time to character or personality traits, and that really limits the connection to this series. This seems to happen in many of these Young Adult dystopian sequels, the producers figures everyone met the hero saviors in the first film, so there is no need to monitor their growth, other than to put them in harm’s way. The end of the first film – both are directed by Wes Ball – there was an air of conspirator mystery. In this film, mystery is killed almost immediately.

Desiring to satisfy the Young Adult audience connection, the film also makes the mistake of having the maze group have all the answers. Their heroics are boring when they become self-evident in every scene, and the casual use of weaponry is disturbing. One spritely lass has a big white-toothed grin on her face as she manipulates a rifle that looks like the one that killed JFK. Also there are the zombie rip-offs from the book called Cranks, which generates another ho-hum.

The film is saved somewhat by the adult B-movie stars, and I use that term with all affection. Patricia Clarkson is having a ball as a white clad villainess, where a hair out of place is her only foe. Alan Tudyk is always welcome, he puts the “act” in character actor. Giancarlo Esposito as new chaperone Jorge gets his anti-hero wings, and the great Barry Pepper enters like a gladiator on a throne. There was a distinct rumble of pleasure in the audience when he appeared.

Patricia Clarkson
Her Hair is Perfect: Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) in ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Another interesting element was a dystopian village, where the kids were lured into, that felt like a PG-13 rated Roman orgy – that’s where Alan Tudyk reigned, gratefully. There were drugs, comely woman and six-packed abs-men in a perpetual party. If I were the maze runners, and I knew the world was blown to crap, that’s where I’d stay. We’d be only one overdose away, coupled with a great post-carnal nap, from shaking the mortal coil that obviously the Republicans had finally got a hold of – going into the great dark eternal night, after massive partying, seems a more pleasure alternative.

But I digress – did I mention there were no mazes in this Maze Runner chapter? Because if you’re a cynical critic, like I am, you have to point out the obvious title error, as not to look soft. Ah, to be young and on the run, with no mazes in front, and no hope behind.

”Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” opens everywhere on September 18th. Featuring Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Jacob Lofland, Patricia Clarkson, Alan Tudyk, Lili Taylor and Barry Pepper. Screenplay adapted by T.S. Nowlin, from the novels by James Dashner. Directed by Wes Ball. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2015 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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