A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Wes Ball
Produced By: Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen
Written By: T.S. Nowlin (Screenplay), James Dashner (Novel)
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Sitting in a theatre with the median age of twelve served as a warning to not approach this young-adult book-to-film sequel too harshly.
Formulaic, repetitive and derivative, the modern genre of dystopian teenage survivalist thrillers about an inevitable uprising against corrupt political powers are as common as the ones where floating cities are saved by men in colourful flying suits.
Where 2014’s The Maze Runner concluded was as in your face as one would fear, with Patricia Clarkson’s Ava Paige looking down the barrel of the camera and stating that it was “Now time for phase 2”. Phase two arrived rather quickly and has picked up quite literally seconds after the original, producing an identically paced, shot and structured thrill-ride. Not being the worst example of a tiresome young-adult picture but nowhere near as enjoyable as 2013’s Catching Fire, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials combines qualities good and bad, straightforward and confusing, engaging and alienating.
The group has escaped the maze, but soon after reaching what the thought was refuge, the suspicious Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) discovers that not all is what it seems. After a truly exhilarating opening act, the group find themselves out in the open, sandy plains known as “The Scorch”.
A desolate wasteland of a former society, The Scorch serves as a home for zombie-like mutants infected with the deadly global virus that will attack and infect those they encounter. The group attempt to move on and seek assistance in the mountains that lie ahead, all the while trying to survive within the elements and avoid the mutant killers simultaneously.
From the first frame, it’s apparent that the production designers have had their work cut out for them with the amped-up sequel.
Bigger and louder than the original, the practical set designs are indicative of the world at large in which the teens are now exposed to, physically representing the vastness of outside the claustrophobic maze they have recently conquered.
In addition, the colour tone of the film is a constant combination of the most common colour combination in cinematic history; blue and orange. The dryness of the lifeless sandy Scorch blends perfectly with the ominously cold blues of sporadic lights in certain indoor scenes.
The end result is a bold, contrasting colour temperature in the film that it able to tell its own story. Although orange and blue is nothing new to the compositional world of filmmaking, and there are most likely more iconic examples of its use over the years, there is a noticeable effort to utilise the contrasting colours to the films advantage within The Scorch Trails and the team behind the cinematography should be praised.
Like with the original Maze Runner, Dylan O’Brien excels in the leading role of Thomas. Along side him are Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) who all perform admirably once again.
Although the chemistry is rather simplistic, the story progression predictable and the action sequences cliché, the interactions and development of the characters is satisfying and investible enough for a for a Y.A. sequel.
Where the film falls flat is almost immediately after its explosive first hour. All of a sudden, the pace and energy drop to a level of near nothingness, leaving an imminent threat of total boredom; something no filmmaker wants to inflict upon their audience.
Towards the later stages of the second act, a perplexingly out of place scene involving some hallucinogenic liquid at a party proves odd and unnecessarily long, however it is after that moment that the pace thankfully picks up once again.
With a finale that doesn’t ram a forthcoming sequel down the audience’s throats as hard as the original did, the conclusion of The Scorch Trials leaves the audience ready to embark on the next stages of Thomas’ journey for revolution.
Although The Scorch Trials is everything you would expect to see from a Y.A. franchise, there is more to enjoy this time around as the group are faced with bigger threats and larger consequences. The opening stages of the film are truly exhilarating, but through a lulling second act, the film never quite gets back up to the levels it reached early on.
The trend that is teenagers in dystopian futures fighting for survival may have spawned several interchangeable stories and pictures to match, there are a few points of difference with The Scorch Trials which is something encouraging to take into phase three.