The YA genre is gradually becoming the next battleground for studios to compete. Lionsgate first asserted their dominance with Twilight and has grown increasingly broader in what they adapt. Come the end of the self-proclaimed saga, studios rushed to fill the void, but Lionsgate was prepared with Hunger Games and garnered a consistent profit with each installment. They further supplanted their hold on YA with the Divergent series to some success. Other studios have tried to dethrone Lionsgate like Fox with Maze Runner, the male counter to Hunger Games. Does its sequel show promise for a sustainable future or will the studio go the way of Sony and submit to those greater?
Because I did not see the first Maze Runner what I have to say must be taken with a grain of salt. In preparation for the screening I did some research, watched a few reviews, and found the movie was very similar to Divergent. While the weird names for ordinary things, the gallery of archetypical characters, and banal dystopian aesthetic do not bother me, the inconsistencies of the world does and Scorch Trials raises a lot questions that should never have been brought up.
After escaping the Maze with his friends, Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien, is taken in by a group of survivors headed by Janson, played by Aiden Gillen. After uncovering shocking revelations about the group they escape to face the Scorch, a ruined city consumed by sand and infested with a far greater menace.
The nonsensical motivation and point behind why anything is happening was avoidable had whoever wrote this used logic. The premise of the Maze Runner series is a bunch of teenagers were put into a maze by a cooperation called W.C.K.D. to test their immunity to a virus that turns people into clickers from Last of Us. The Maze accelerates natural selection, putting Runners through its complex obstacles, and killing the weak like a complicated version of Auschwitz. Those who make it out are taken by W.C.K.D. to synthesize a cure by harvesting their biological material in the most horror-movie way possible.
I understand the need for antagonists to do bad things, but it is revealed in Scorch Trials that W.C.K.D.’s methods are the most contrived, unnecessary, and stupid plot conveniences since Star Trek: Insurrection. When one of Thomas’s friends gets infected, a doctor takes his blood and as she synthesizes the cure, with no complex equipment, she says young people are inherently immune and the cure cannot be manufactured. That is why W.C.K.D. is so extreme in their efforts and why the whole story falls apart.
Why do they harvest hundreds of kids for something that can be done by taking blood? I understand their goal is to create a vaccine, but would it not be more efficient to produce some kind of cure, even if it is temporary? It seems easy to make as the doctor took a couple vials worth of blood. Imagine how much could be produced from a whole pint and she made it in a tent in the middle of the desert! W.C.K.D. is not only wasting test subjects with their convenience-maze, but killing off the cure for something virtually unattainable without spending years’ worth of human lives. And if they already know young people are immune, why go to the trouble of wiping their memory and putting them in a maze with no guarantee they will actually make it out? I get the allegory of adults living through the young, but you could have done that without making yourself look like a bad writer.
All that aside, the rest of the movie was quite decent. It does away with the YA tropes in exchange for a zombie apocalypse feel and a helping of Mad Max. It barrows from Land of the Dead and Resident Evil: Extinction as the characters wander through a buried cityscape while avoiding Cranks, fast zombies. The environments are dotted with little details and feel lived in, the inhabitants making the most of their rundown existence. It is not very creative like Fury Road, but it was an admirable attempt at a post-apocalyptic world.
As a zombie movie goes, it is baby’s first Romero before he made Diary and Survival of the Dead. What it does is not unlike any zombie film as the survivors make sacrifices, hide infections, struggle moving from place to place, and cautiously interact with people they do not know. It does everything every movie has ever done in an unremarkable fashion. If you know the genre you see it all coming with little to no hint.
The acting was also unremarkable. O’Brien played the usual ordinary hero and it showed in his performance. He reminded me of Paul Walker as a cipher for the audience to latch onto, while the rest of the cast played actual characters. The other young actors, however, did not stand out beyond their conventional archetypes. Gillen seemed to enjoy himself on a break from being Petyr Baelish. I wish he used his regular accent, though; American does not suit him. Giancarlo Esposito showed up as Jorge and had a little fun as the leader of a survivor group, getting some laughs out of me at the end.
If you are a fan, nothing I have said will keep you from seeing The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, like a negative review of a Marvel film. As a zombie movie, it is nothing to get excited about for anyone familiar with the genre. If you like The Walking Dead you will be satisfied with its mediocrity. For anyone in need of a different take on the zombie apocalypse, look no further than Wrymwood: Road of the Dead on iTunes.