This may not be the grand comeback review you’ve all doubtlessly waited for, but hey it’s been a while, and you gotta start again somewhere. At least this isn’t a Fantastic Four review (although that might be fun!). And to answer your judgmental question, no, I haven’t read any of the books. Apparently, that’s not an issue with spoilers though, as I keep hearing the events of the book are quite different from the movie. As in, telepathy has been left out, characters are mixed around, and plot details reversed. I figure, different medium, different story techniques, right? End of controversy (haha!). My point is, don’t expect me to gripe about differences between the two.
Overall in quality, The Scorch Trials is an improvement over the first Maze Runner. It features the sun burned lands instead of a lush maze, while still keeping with the themes of our heroes running from scary stuff in a dark maze-like area. Speaking of which, the action scenes are frenetic and entertaining, especially the climax and the sort-of-zombie bits. Those were actually borderline terrifying for me, who was unaware that anything like that would appear in the film. The creature designs were disturbing and fantastic, even if the camera always quickly cut away to maintain a PG-13 rating. Pausing on those frames could still give small children (and me) nightmares.
The pacing kept everything moving nicely before I had a chance to figure out what would happen next. The soundtrack was terribly generic, but I guess we can’t all be The Hunger Games‘s James Newton Howard score. Effects and CGI? Polished. The three main characters of Thomas, Newt, and Teresa were still engaging and sympathetic, until Teresa pulls that crap with the betrayal. If we’re supposed to still root for her after siding with such an obviously bad entity, I’m not sure how.
I’m a huge fan of Giancarlo Esposito, so I was pleasantly surprised when he appeared in the movie as Jorge (obviously I didn’t research this much beforehand). Jorge and his surrogate daughter Brenda provided the most interesting new characters, and I enjoyed their murky motivations and unpredictable actions. I was expecting Jorge to betray them (not Teresa) at the end to help Brenda, or Brenda to become a zombie, but neither happened and I guess that’s a good thing. Giancarlo Esposito makes such a great villain, it’s interesting to see him play the (flawed) hero.
A main issue I have is that the villains’ plans, at least in the movies, still don’t make much sense. The children’s blood is the cure, so why is slaughtering them and killing the supply better than accommodating them, and just drawing some blood every few weeks? Why is Wicked so impatient? Where do they get their post-apocalyptic funding and manpower to build these billion dollar mazes with robotic spiders and helicopters? They guys and their shoot-everyone-approach are now so obviously bad that “the end justifies the means” argument that Teresa uses is laughable.
Besides the villains, my only other hangup has to do with how this feels less like a movie and more like the next episode of a television special. This is a sad symptom of an increasing number of franchise movies- each new installment works as a sequel, but pitiful as a standalone movie. All in all though, I was entertained, and I’ll be in the theaters for the next one to see if they ever stop running through those blasted mazes.