Based on James Dashner’s 2009 novel, The Maze Runner (2014) was a quiet success. Praised for its unique premise, tight scripting and intense action sequences, it quickly etched its name in the hall of Young Adult Dystopia adaptations (Divergent, Hunger Games). The second film deviates from the first in a major way but still contains some mystery and thrilling action.
When we left Thomas and his group of escapees at the end of The Maze Runner, they had been picked up and airlifted to a safer location. When The Scorch Trials begins, we find out that the facility they have been taken to is run by a man named Jensen and it isn’t long before his promise of safety is quickly revealed as a lie. The group, including a couple of new members, escape the facility/prison and with no real sense of where to go, must navigate their way through the dreaded scorch in order to find refuge.
The Scorch Trials’ biggest detractor is its narrative. It isn’t necessarily bad but it isn’t progressive either. It seems to be twenty steps ahead of itself and forgets that while it is trying to establish its own mythos, it doesn’t settle on anything long enough to explore it properly. The scorch, the cranks, WCKD, new characters and The Right Arm are all introduced but by the end, we haven’t learned much more than that they simply exist.
It goes for the characters too. Speaking frankly, no one is really given a second look except Thomas. Minho has been relegated to generic action hero and Newt, who was once a second in command, just blindly follows Thomas without much of a fight. The only other person who experiences any real growth is Teresa, who is just all kinds of messed up at this point and shows it throughout the film.
It isn’t all bad though. While they tried to pack a lot in, Scorch Trials certainly shakes things up at a fairly rapid pace by presenting new characters and twists. While leaving a lot unexplained, it still manages to pour on the drama and tension which is pretty impressive and despite its lack of character development, I still found myself being emotionally invested.
Most of that comes from its fantastic set pieces. Much more of an action film that the first, I find it extremely hard to say a bad word about its these sequences, so I wont. It’s where the film really shines. From start to finish, Scorch Trials packs a major punch (except for one pretty dull party scene) consisting of a run through an electric storm, an escape from a crumbling building to its loud and suspenseful final shootout. Its worth noting that I was roused out of my seat and yelling during the finale. I don’t do that very often.
The Scorch Trials has some beautiful cinematography too. Dilapidated ruins of a world that once was and shanty towns paint a bleak visage. Some incredible shots so how long and daunting the scorch is too.
The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials certainly tampers with the second book and I write that as a warning to anyone who appreciates it. However it stands on its own two as a tense, well paced action flick that sets things up for a grand finale.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Special features on the Blu-Ray edition include a cool collection of debriefing videos that Jansen recorded that show the groups thoughts on their new home. The gag reel and deleted scenes are fun and there is a 6 part documentary chronicling the production of The Scorch Trials.
The collectors edition nets you an exclusive comic book too which is written by the films director and writer.
Special Features Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.