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Movie Review: “Scorch Trials”

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Starring Dylan O’Brien (Thomas) and a slew of other well-known actors, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials premiered on September 18 and led the box office on opening weekend, pulling in $30.3 million. Although it won the weekend box office, the second movie in the trilogy failed to beat The Maze Runner, which pulled in $32.3 million.

In this second installment of The Maze Runner trilogy, we follow Thomas and his friends in their greatest challenge yet after their escape/rescue from the maze. The movie opens up straight to the action with Thomas, Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and the other Gladers finding “safety” at a compound with many other teens who were rescued from other mazes. The action quickly builds with the discovery that their “rescuers” are actually WCKD (evil scientists who imprisoned them last movie) who plan to kill them. Long story short, we follow these boys on their search for clues about the World Catastrophe Killzone Department as they escape and embark on a journey across The Scorch, a desolate desert of land that was scorched by the sun flares.

From the standpoint of a movie-goer, Scorch Trials is the movie that explores everything that this saga has to offer; however, from the standpoint of an avid fan of the books, the screenwriter, T.S. Nowlan, completely ignored the main plot and made up his own. I’ll focus on the quality of the movie based strictly on the movie, and then compare it to the book.

The movie introduces us to a lot of new characters. Not only are we still stuck with the head doctor Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), now we are introduced to Janson (Aidan Gillen), head of operations and security, and the emergence of a rebel group “The Right Arm” who are supposedly the good guys in all this who want to rescue all The Gladers and the world. Unfortunately with this more involved casting list we lose sight of some of the main characters and they tend to fall into the background. We also lose a lot of their Glade language which is slightly disappointing as it reminds us where they are from and forces people to remember the maze and learn who the characters are at a deeper level.  While The Maze Runner had striking visual effects and strong acting, we see Scorch Trials incorporate a fast-paced plot and demand more from its actors.

Now, in the film, once Thomas and the team enter The Scorch, they are faced with all sorts of perils, starting with The Cranks. The Cranks are victims of a world-wide virus, called The Flare, from the sun flares, that causes them to essentially become zombies. Now, I wouldn’t exactly call them zombies, as they don’t die and then come back, but they are rotting and apparently like to eat flesh, so let’s go with zombies. Navigating through The Scorch, Thomas learns that they are supposedly immune to The Flare, until someone dies. No spoilers. Here is where comparisons to other post-apocalyptic young adult book-to-film adaptations occur, but it is easy to get around that as Scorch Trials finds a way to stand apart with its strong acting, directing, and creative filmography.

Although the movie is, dare I say, great, when you compare it to the book, the film is sub-par. Need I say more when I hypothesize that the screenwriter didn’t even read the book? This is disappointing because The Maze Runner followed the book so well. For starters, let’s discuss The Cranks and The Flare virus.  In the book, we spend substantial time reading about the original Gladers’ trip through the scorch and their interaction with The Cranks. They are not zombies to start off with. When we first meet The Cranks in the book series, they are described as “people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease.” The book spends time building up The Scorch, the people in The Scorch, the virus, and essentially showing us character develop.

We miss all of the character development in the film because the writers chose to introduce The Right Arm (who are not in the book) and chose to focus on some cliché plot to rescue a friend from the grips of evil. None of this exists in the second book. The focus is on the disease and the fact that the entire journey through the Scorch ends in the realization that this whole thing was just another trial. A TRIAL. In fact the group is told by WCKD before they escape to The Scorch that they have all been infected with The Flare and have 2 weeks to get to the other side and get the cure. Also, there is only one other group of Gladers-an all-girl group. As a fan of the book series, I give the movie a C+.

From the stance of a film lover, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials definitely improves upon the first movie and I give it a loose A-. If you are a fan of the book, I recommend going with an open mind, or just going to see Dylan O’Brien. If you haven’t read the book, I encourage you to go and enjoy the action-packed and adventure-filled movie.