Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015) Movie Review Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015) Movie Review
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"Instead of focusing on the key qualities that made the book so riveting to read, like the character dynamics and the mystery elements, the... Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015) Movie Review

In a market overflown with remakes, adaptations and sequels, the young adult genre has no problem thriving as a successful financial business. It doesn’t really matter how good the movies are, as long as they cater to the teenage target group and stay relatively faithful to the source material. Twilight, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Beautiful Creatures, Percy Jackson, I Am Number Four. The list of sewage goes on and on. Though there are a few YA novels that have made a graceful transition from page to screen, such as The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games, and most recently The Maze Runner franchise. Wes Ball’s 2014 big-budget debut was a surprisingly suspenseful, intense and intriguing jigsaw puzzle with grounded characters and a thoroughly engaging story. The expectations for an even better sequel were relatively high. Unfortunately, The Scorch Trials fails to take the series to the next level.

The film picks up right where the original left off, with Thomas and the other Gladers now having escaped the maze, only to find out that the world outside has gone down the drain. The planet lies in ruins, covered in dry desert sand and plagued by uncontrollable weather conditions. A strange disease has wiped out most of humanity, leaving few survivors to roam under an overheated sun, fighting for scraps and running from infected people known as Cranks. Our heroes of course have to deal with these shocking circumstances and make their way across the desolate wasteland to join a resistance army hellbent on taking down WICKED once and for all.

Normally I would try my best to avoid drawing comparisons between the book and the movie, simply because I don’t feel like it would be fair to the film. After all, there is no way you can possibly cram 300 + pages into a 2 hour blockbuster. However, in the case of The Scorch Trials, I’m gonna make an exception to that rule. Why? Because not only does it differ so much from James Dashner’s novel, that it almost feels like the filmmakers didn’t even bother to read it in the first place. It also literally ruins the mythology of the universe, to the point where fans will be ripping out locks of hair just to keep themselves from leaving. I’m all in for changing things up, if it makes sense in the context of the story. Some things just don’t translate that well from paper to screen, I totally get that. The problem here is that The Maze Runner trilogy is such a complex philosophical allegory, and the average moviegoer don’t want that. Or at least that’s what Hollywood thinks. And so instead of focusing on the key qualities that made the book so riveting to read, like the character dynamics and the mystery elements, they give us a safe-zone treadmill-routine with lots of running, screaming and visually chaotic action sequences that are so incoherent it hurts.

But it’s not just the fans that will be scratching their heads. Even those who come in cold will feel confused and dizzy from the quick pacing and pointless exposition. What made the first movie so great was the simplicity of the story. Where are we? Who are we? Where do we come from, and what is our purpose in life? None of these questions were ever answered, but that was okay. It kept us guessing. We were able to follow the characters and relate to them. We didn’t know any more or any less than they did, and that made it so much more exciting to see how things were going to pan out for them. The sequel, as it turns out, doesn’t care about that emotional connection and personal attachment. They just shove a spoonful of pre-packaged information down our throats and expects us to understand everything. But we don’t. It’s far too convoluted to even begin to comprehend. What’s even worse is that none of the revelations are very interesting. They are in the book, though. I’m not going to spoil anything, but let’s just say that there is a plot device involving the teenagers’ blood, which completely contradicts the novel and negates the concept of the first film. It’s cringe-worthy to say it the least. Long live laziness and all of his friends.

All that was good has been stripped away from this property; the philosophy, the relationships, the subtlety. It’s all gone. There’s no time for it, because the studio takes us for fools who have no attention span, like a kid on christmas eve that is too busy thinking about that one big presence, he forgets what the holiday is really all about. Granted, the film is competently crafted from a technical standpoint. The world seems fairly credible, the cinematography is for the most part really beautiful, and the lighting is first-class. But that’s just the icing on the cake. In fact, I’d argue they didn’t even have the time to make a cake for us to eat. They were simply too lazy, so they just decided to serve some sugar on a plate. It might taste sweet in the beginning, but the more you eat, the more bitter it gets. This movie is all sugar and no cake. Sure, it does have its moments of intrigue, but whenever the ideas really start to flourish, the studio fertiliser kicks in and makes sure they stay homogenised. Who cares about ideas anyway, right? The filmmakers here have clearly forgotten what made this idea so special to so many young people. The thrill is gone. The brain is dead. The heart has failed. How I wish I could’ve done something to save it, because it deserved so much better than what it got. Please don’t let it discourage you from reading the book. It’s infinitely more intelligent than this dud of a perfunctory pile of YA nonsense.

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Mathias Folsted Film/Music/TV critic, columnist, and news-writer

An aspiring filmmaker, film critic and YouTuber. Previous experience include extensive work for the largest danish film site, www.filmz.dk, where I served as junior editor, film critic, columnist, and news writer. Also a graduate from the European Film College, I've been a lover of motion pictures for as long as I can remember. My criticism is always honest, but above all emotional.

  • Zed

    “It’s Twilight meets The Hunger Games” – actual critic praising Beautiful Creatures in 2013

  • Zed

    If the outside world is a desert, how did it rain so much in the maze?

  • The franchise that did not happen (one of many).

  • Expected garbage/Expected garbage.

    I remember watching the preview for the first one on TV once, having never heard of it before, and at first I was like oh, this is interesting, then the token female character showed up in the trailer and I was like neeeeevermind.

  • So, it’s like The Asylum’s version of “Divergent/alltheotherYApropertiesoflate”?

  • Infinite Zissou

    Leave the complex philosophical allegories to the children’s books.

  • Mathias

    If I told you that, I would spoil it for you 😉

  • The rain is kid’s tears for real!

  • Mathias

    I’m totally serious. The books are surprisingly poignant and mature for a YA novel. It makes you think at little bit. This sequel, though, doesn’t do any of that justice. It’s just mind-numbing action and almost no substance.

  • Mathias

    Well, it had potential. “The Maze Runner” is one of the 3 best book-film adaptations of a YA novel, and that one worked surprisingly well. This one just never reaches the same level of mystery and intrigue + they ruin the mythology established in the books so much that fans like myself will slap themselves across the forehead at how dumb it is. It’s sad, because they actually had a legitimately good franchise on their hands here. Damn you Hollywood!

  • Infinite Zissou

    What are the other 2?

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    The first one was shit, did we really think this was going to be better? Took my youngest to see the first one, I fell asleep in the middle. Ender’s Game had the same affect on me, along with all those crappy Hunger Game movies. Lesson of the Day: No matter how you package it, no matter how it is presented, YA adaptions suck! The only one’s who truly appreciate them are YA! Believe That!

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    The Maze Runner sucked; boring as hell!

  • Infinite Zissou

    We’re too street to pick up on all these complex philosophical allegories, man.

  • Tarmac492.1

    When is someone going to make a series out of McCammon’s Swan Song????

  • Tarmac492.1

    I tried watching the first Twilight Movie. I found it completely and utterly garbage.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Also

  • I always sidestepped that franchise, I knew it was not my cup of tea. The only YA novel I read was Ender’s Game, as I have barely time to read. Very well written review again though.

  • I stopped at the Vampire baseball scene. Never finished the movie.

  • Tarmac492.1

    If all these young adults are reading, why do so many of them seem so stupid???? Ahhhhhhhh, turning into my parents.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I am picturing Tommy Chong saying this for some reason.

  • Mathias

    “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and its sequel “Mockingjay Part 1”. The rest I couldn’t less for.

  • Mathias

    Well, let’s agree to disagree.

  • Bop

    What a huge disappontment the first movie was. The first part of that movie was interesting and the second part was the drizzling shits.

  • Zed

    What about the Harry Potter movies? I enjoyed about half of those. Is Harry Potter still YA, though? Does a book suddenly become fine literature once it sells a certain number of copies?

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Despite the teenage protagonist, Ender’s Game isn’t a YA novel; it’s a genuine, Hugo and Nebula-winning science fiction novel. They tried to turn re-format it into the YA genre for the movie adaptation to fit in with popular trends.

  • Zed

    Fair enough.

  • Sagamanus

    I watched the first one as something tolerably interesting. And it was, though the creature isn’t that at all. And I’m not even going to question how that maze was built. But having come off Wayward Pines and its revelation being a disappointment, I wonder if anyone can follow up these days. I expect with The Scorch Trials that it would only descend into the typical.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    I enjoyed Harry Potter more than all the other YA stuff. I think Harry Potter somewhere between Lord Of The Rings and YA gibber gabber.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Nooooooooooooooooooooooo

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    I was referencing the movie, not the book. My oldest agrees with you that the books are awesome. He felt the same way about Ender’s Game.

  • Tarmac492.1

    happy bday!!!

  • Zed

    Conjecture: most of the people reading these books are middle-aged schmucks who want to feel young again. The only actual young adults reading them are the minority that read a lot of things.

  • True. It was very good!

  • Mathias

    I’m talking both.

  • Mathias

    That would have been really cool!

  • Stalkeye

    I’ll gladly await the Death knell for these kind of Films.

    it’s all The Hunger Games’ fault.

    No actually, the credit belongs to……

    http://cdn3.teen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/worst-twilight-memes-funny-pictures-8.jpg

  • Amanda

    It was drizzling shits where you got to watch mediocre child actors suffer and die on screen. That made for a lot more entertainment than I was expecting.