There must be something freeing about writing a post apocalypse movie. Things are simpler. Freer. You wouldn’t have to worry about traffic cams, or being broke, or having a job. Relationships, too, are largely uncomplicated – there’s good guys and bad guys and it’s pretty easy most of the time to tell them apart. The world of Maze Runner: Scorch Trials has had not one but two apocalypses (apocalypse?) – the sun has burned most of the land to desert and there’s been a deadly virus to boot.
I think I’m going to bring company with me to every movie I want to review from now on. I learn so much. Turns out the Maze Runner movies are based on a series of Young Adult novels by the same name. That explained a lot. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (and also its prequel) are so slickly done. The character motivations are clear, the pacing is spot on you always know what the characters need to do and the dangers they face. It’s as though this film had been originally created in a medium where only the writing mattered. The action scenes are good, the suspense is well done and there are some surprises. Also, this movie passes the Bechdel Test without seeming to try.
I liked the acting. Not just because Dylan O’Brien had a shower scene (though he did) but the entire cast was solid. Aiden Gillen was wonderfully, affably evil. Patricia Clarkson was just the right amount of sinister. And I was very pleased to see Alan Tudyk in a fairly memorable set piece. I also liked the visual effects. I can’t give anything away of course, but there were some fairly memorable visual effects that, while not strictly necessary, definitely lent something to the overall world.
Despite being technically well done, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials didn’t have much to say. Sure you could talk about Hope, which was a theme. Or maybe Loyalty or Friendship or something. But on these topics, very little is actually explored. Not much in the way of character development or emotional ties. They were all too busy doing stuff. My friend thought it might be because there were too many characters introduced, and that’s possible, but really none of the characters ever seemed very nuanced to me. I think this might have been by design. The Scorch Trials certainly knew its audience – the adults were largely villains or incompetents while the teen protagonists who made all the decisions ended up being the right all along. Everyone knows exactly what they want and what they’re going to do, unburdened by indecision or doubt.
Just like its prequel, The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials left me feeling that not enough was explained. But I have to tell you, I liked the first movie better. It was the Mystery that drove it, the whole What’s-Going-On-ness of it all, whereas in this things aren’t explained because people are too busy at the moment. Still, this actually work and makes this Not Movie-Chinese-Food, at least technically, because I think I’ll be reading the books just to find out what’s going on.