As someone who hates bad acting and love stories, I generally hate young adult (YA) books, tv shows and films. The Maze Runner (2014) still piqued my interest despite the horde of teen girls in the YouTube comments and I eventually checked it out. The performances were a welcome surprise, with Dylan O’Brien being a pleasant surprise. Aside from O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie- Sangster, Will Poulter and others also helped to carry the film’s concept and story.
The Maze Runner‘s ending revealed that a solar flare has devastated most of the world, and has also lead to a virus known as the flare virus. The maze was one of a series of experiments being used to test the bodies of people immune to the flare virus, in hopes of finding a cure.
The Scorch Trails continued with the character’s escape from the maze, introducing us to a desolate world filled with “cranks”, those infected by the flare virus. WCKD continues their pursuit of the group, after the group escapes from their facility in search of a resistance group called The Right Arm. The setting of the second film wasn’t as unique as the first, since we have seen post-apocalyptic worlds and zombies before. However, maybe I am a sucker for those elements. I didn’t hate The Scorch Trials as much as most people did. I still found it to be an enjoyable movie, although it was somewhat forgettable.
The Death Cure mainly follows the group’s attempts to find Minho and the rest of those taken captive by WCKD, hatching a plan to break into WCKD’s home base, nestled in the Last City. The performances continue to shine here, especially O’Brien and Sangster. I found Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) somewhat forgettable in The Maze Runner but feel like she had a much better role in this film. The action sequences were a highlight of the second and that continues here, although the scenes do have those small moments of nonsensical actions that tend to ruin suspension of disbelief. For example, there is a scene where soldiers are approaching the heroes and instead of shooting from afar (but still within range) they wait until they are less than fifty feet away before pulling their triggers. Once the soldiers start shooting it is clear they are not planning to take the heroes alive, but that goes back to the issue, why not shoot when they were a little further away and had clear shots?
The action and the writing only allows a few characters to truly shine, with Thomas, Teresa and Newt getting the brunt of that. Honourable mention also goes to a short but powerful performance from Walton Goggins (as always) and a character who returned from the first film. Others, such as Brenda and Jorge get their action scenes, but get much less character development. They exist mainly to provide firepower for the main group.
In terms of the villains, Aiden Gillen is competent as Janson but is not that memorable (same as the second film). Patricia Clarkson’s “Ava Paige” is more of a standout as WCKD’s leader, but her character also fails to be a standout. She is a villain facing the utilitarian struggle of sacrificing some for many, but we don’t get too much time to explore her moral conflict.
Like The Scorch Trials the cranks were surprisingly creepy in the Death Cure, and the film actually has two jump scares that are better than some of the attempted ones in horror movies. I will say that some of the scenes, action or otherwise, feature cliches that detracted from my enjoyment of the film e.g. we hear a gunshot and think a main character got shot, but someone else did OR we think everyone’s doomed, but a last minute rescue comes into play. At one point, it seemed like there was a loop of these cliches but thankfully they faded somewhat as the movie went on. The most effective villain in this film is simply the idea of WCKD, the entity that wants to imprison the heroes.
The Death Cure also adds a resistance group that resides just outside the walls of the Last City, eager for their chance to break through and seek revenge on the company that has kept them out. I thought this subplot was interesting but we don’t actually get to explore the community much, although they make their presence felt in the third act.
The performances and the action are the best parts of this film, and arguably the series. The characters birthed in the first film are the ones who remain the strongest throughout, giving us the film’s heart and most of our reason for caring about the fate of the heroes. I will commend the series for being one that makes you root for all of the heroes, even if they are not well developed. Unlike some of the terrible slasher flicks or terrible sci-fi films I have seen (looking at you AVP: Requiem) I never crossed the line of truly not caring about certain characters. In contrast, caring about the character is what makes you want to know them better. The characters aren’t stereotypes, or simplified archetypes e.g. the jock, the smart one. There is more to them but we don’t really get to see that. We root for Thomas, Newt etc. and then root for everyone else by extension.
Although the film had its faults I still loved seeing it on the big screen and would be happy to see it again. I believe The Death Cure was a strong end to the series. The film was long but I honestly didn’t feel like it dragged. Maybe I’m just a YA fanboy but that’s my honest opinion. Do yourself a favour if you’ve seen the other two and don’t let critics sway you too much. See the film if you want to, and let yourself be the judge.