Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Utterly Without Investment Potential: Why The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Flops!

The Good: Cinematography?
The Bad: Characters, Acting, Plot, Much of the direction
The Basics: The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials continues in an absolutely unimpressive way as Thomas and his Maze survivors struggle to survive in the post-Flare world.

I was over the whole "teen lit being made into blockbuster films" well before I saw The Maze Runner (reviewed here!). I'm decades past teen lit being my target demographic and while some adults have been wowed by the books or films they are based on, the skeptic in me is just not sold by the thinly-drawn characters, the senseless dystopias and the films that seem to highlight inexperienced talent in front of and behind the camera. So, I went into The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials with no particular enthusiasm for it. In fact, all I honestly remembered about The Maze Runner was split between excitement to see more of Patricia Clarkson in the sequel and thinking that actress Kaya Scodelario had had less screen presence than Kristen Stewart in The Twilight Saga (reviewed here!).

Sadly, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials lived down to my lack of anticipation for it. After half an hour of waiting for anything truly significant to happen, the film transitions into a second-rate rebellion film with so little investment in the characters that I'm not sure the director bothered to have all the characters say their names this time around. Outside Thomas, Teresa, Aris, Dr. Paige, and Janson, most of the character's names slipped from my mind long before the characters left the screen. That is because much of the movie is teenage boys running around sweaty from people who are essentially zombies and none develop enough to actually truly give a damn about them.

After a flashback of being saved as a child by WCKD and Dr. Paige, Thomas finds himself in the present being brought to a facility, having been rescued from the Maze. At the facility, the young men and Teresa from the Maze meet Janson. Janson tells the youths that they have been rescued from WCKD and are safe at the waystation, where they will stay until they can be relocated to a safe location. Thomas's group is there with many other young people who were in other Mazes and the one who has been there the longest, Aris, quickly realizes that Thomas is suspicious of the facility as well. Aris shows Thomas a secret room in the facility and after Thomas steals a badge from a guard, he and Aris are able to gain entry. They discover that this group is engineering some of the creatures used in the Maze and is harvesting something from the young people brought there. When Janson enters, they see him in communication with Dr. Paige and realize that they are just in a different WCKD facility.

After rescuing Teresa, the young men flee the facility and end up nearby in an abandoned mall where they get enough supplies to survive before they are attacked by Cranks (the infected humans who did not survive the effects of the solar flares). After losing one of their own to an infection, the group discovers a small band of survivors and they work to be put in touch with the Resistance. But WCKD is not through with them and they begin a relentless hunt for the young people and the Right Arm and Thomas's group discovers there is a traitor in their midst.

And after two hours, I still didn't care.

Director Wes Ball does not let the shots linger on the Cranks long enough to truly appreciate what is happening with them and just how dangerous they are. The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials oscillates between long, boring stretches where people we don't care about try to piece together the world they are just now encountering and meeting people who have lived in it and deliver lots of exposition to them and fast, senseless chases with people running in places they have never been and somehow getting to exactly where they need to go. The world of The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is faux-exciting; it is not overly exciting, but things move fast enough (when they do) so viewers forget for a few moments how little they care about the people being chased or the conceits of the world they are in.

Thomas is not a particularly interesting character and he is overshadowed the moment Jorge and then Vince appear on screen. In fact, after Jorge pops up, Thomas could be killed and the story might have progressed in a more interesting way. The Right Arm resists WCKD and for someone who has been betrayed rather recently - multiple times - Thomas leaps right in to trusting them.

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials lacks performers with real screen presence used well. Wes Ball, sadly, needs to learn that you can't just throw Patricia Clarkson and Giancarlo Esposito on screen with lousy material and expect them to make it better. Amid a number of amateurs, Esposito and Clarkson stand out, but they seem out of place beside the cast that appears more lost than engaged. There is a large chunk of the film where Kaya Scodelario does not have lines, but is seen behind the guys mouthing things. I'm still not sure why directors of young women seem to give the universal note "never let the audience see you with your mouth fully closed."

The wasteland of The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is mirrored by a lack of a compelling story, a dull series of characters and actors who are either unprofessional or unable to deliver their usual caliber of performance in the material they are given.

For other works with Aiden Gillen, please check out my reviews of:
Game Of Thrones - Season Four
Game Of Thrones - Season Three
Game Of Thrones - Season Two
Game Of Thrones - Season One
The Dark Knight Rises


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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