Title: Maze Runner:The Scorch Trials
Director: Wes Ball
Major Players: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Out Of Five: 2.5
With some sequels, it doesn’t matter if you’ve not seen the original film. Thankfully, I saw The Maze Runner when it came out last year and it’s just as well. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on for at least half of the follow-up, Maze Runner:The Scorch Trials. Because there’s nothing in it that helps you fill in the gaps, which means this is not a film that stands up on its own.
It picks up exactly where the original left off, and director Wes Ball has enough arrogance to believe that everybody watching not only saw it, but remembers a lot of it as well. When this one starts, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers – don’t ask, it’ll take too long to explain – have got through the Maze and are now in the care of WCKD, headed by Doctor Paige (Patricia Clarkson). They’re all immune from the deadly Flare virus but, after witnessing some of the attempts to find a cure, they escape out into the Scorch, a massive dessert, in search of rebel organisation The Right Arm.
So, assuming you understood that, what do you get this time? An awful lot of running. Again. And again. And again. Often preceded with exhortations to “Go, go, go!” or “Let’s go now!” but, instead of going now, spending time talking about it. It’s monotonous, repetitive and eventually just plain boring. There may not be a maze as such, but there are replacements. The first is the heating ducts in the WCKD building where Thomas and The Gladers (not a post-dystopian rock band) are being kept. Then there’s the devastated city on the other side of the Scorch, where the underground tunnels are covered with graffiti and the obligatory ivy and foliage.
In the original, the enemies in the Maze were the Grievers, giant robotic spider-like creatures. This time it’s humans – of sorts. They look like zombies but we discover they’re victims of Flare – all still alive, very aggressive and sounding like they’re in desperate need of industrial quantities of Rennie. The trouble with these particular living dead is that we never get especially close up to them – not that you’d want to – which means your faith in the make-up and prosthetics team diminishes as the film goes on. They must have been done on the cheap and, as the film goes on, they become laughable.
The film is littered with incongruities and things that just don’t make sense. Despite severe conditions in The Scorch, the Gladers manage to survive on next to no water: we only see them taking the occasional glug. How does that work? Or when Thomas explores the WCKD building, he drops down from the heat duct to the corridor floor and closes the grating behind him. Later he’s back in the duct. How the hell did he manage that?
I’m not the biggest fan of 3D: there are times when it genuinely adds to the cinematic experience, but this isn’t one of them. Certainly, the landscape has broadened from the confines of the Maze to include The Scorch, the ruined city (which looks remarkably like the ones from The Hunger Games and Divergent) and the mountain hide out of the Right Arm. But ultimately all that produces is more running. And you don’t need 3D for that.
Maze Runner:The Scorch Trials has fallen into the time-honoured sequel trap. It’s worse than the original. Take all the running out of it and there isn’t much left, Flare sufferers excepted. The acting is just so-so – it’s certainly a waste of the talents of Aiden Gillan – and the dialogue clunks along. But I forgot: this isn’t about a film about talking, it’s all about running. Perhaps Mo Farah will have a cameo in the next one.
To be honest, I’d give my Right Arm not to have to sit through the final instalment!
Maze Runner:The Scorch Trials is released in UK cinemas on Thursday, 10 September and is also reviewed on Talking Pictures.