Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the sequel to last year’s surprise hit The Maze Runner, is considerably darker and more frightening that its predecessor, but still delivers the same suspense and exquisitely shot action sequences that fans of author James Dashner’s young adult trilogy have come to expect.
The Scorch Trials picks up just after the first film ended, as protagonist Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow “Gladers” are transported to an isolated, outpost by the mysterious Janson (Aiden Gillen). Having just escaped from a horrifying maze created as a test by the shadowy organisation known as WCKD, Thomas and his friends are promised salvation in the compound, but begin to suspect that something is amiss and escape into ‘the Scorch’ — a sun-baked and desolate desert apocalyptic vista. However, the Scorch offers little in the way of sanctuary and our heroes are put upon by both the unforgiving elements and the zombie-like ‘Cranks’ (think the 28 Days Later variety of zombies rather than lumbering walkers of The Walking Dead).
The tone is vastly different to the first film, as The Scorch Trials is far more expansive both in terms of plot and in the sheer scale of its presentation. The claustrophobic confines of The Glade and Maze lent a decidedly Lord of the Flies or Cube vibe to the first film, and while its sequel does utilise this from time to time (the action sequences in an abandoned shopping mall and sewage tunnels immediately come to mind), it arguably has more in common with post-apocalyptic flicks like The Omega Man or Mad Max, particularly throughout the film’s outdoor sequences.
Director Wes Ball knows what he is doing and in escaping The Glade, he is able to maintain tension throughout his exquisitely filmed (and never repeated) action sequences, which work as well outdoors as they do in the enclosed sets — especially when film veers more into the horror realm. This shift also has the effect of providing the actors with more room to manoeuver Dylan O’Brien (Thomas) seems to have benefited most and is far more comfortable with shouldering the responsibility for the franchise this outing.
Another pleasing aspect of the film was that The Scorch Trials holds its cards close to its chest, with a number of unexpected twists and turns and intriguing character motivations carefully dispersed throughout the film rather than presented to us through clunky disposition. This faith in the viewer helps the film escape many of the clichés which plague its contemporaries and helps the audience stay invested.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a visually rewarding and superbly crafted film which is able to stand out in a crowded genre due to its electric action sequences and diverse sets. It’s the perfect stopgap for those looking for a YA-fix before the next Hunger Games film drops, and is sure to please fans of that genre.
Image source: 20th Century Fox.