Thursday, October 8, 2015

Movie Review: "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" (2015)

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Movie"Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials"
Director: Wes Ball
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes

Once the small group of Gladers made it successfully out of the Maze, they found they were put there by a company called WCKD. Just then, a militant group storms the WCKD compound and takes the group into custody. The group's leader Janson (Aidan Gillen) claims they are fighting against WCKD, but Thomas doesn't trust them. Once he discovers their true intentions, he escapes with his Gladers and a few from other mazes out into The Scorch, a desolate wasteland with vast deserts roamed by those infected with a deadly virus that turned them into raging blood-thirsty creatures known as Cranks. They must navigate The Scorch to the mountains to try and find the actual rebel group fighting against WCKD known as "The Right Arm."

"The Maze Runner" was an unexpected treat for us last year. Having no knowledge about anything in or about the movie or book, we went in with no expectations whatsoever and were pleasantly thrilled with what we saw. Now, one year later, "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" boasts the second in this trilogy of teen dystopic future book-to-movie adaptations, and once again, it was surprisingly good to say the least.

Back again are all the culprits who survived the first film: Thomas, played by Dylan O'Brien, Minho, played by Ki Hong Lee, Newt, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Theresa, played by Kaya Scodelario, Frypan, and played by Dexter Darden, who are now out of the maze and have been rescued by a seemingly good military group led by Janson, played by "Game of Thrones" actor Littlefinger, errr, Aidan Gillen, with his sinister smirk and his oddly cheery disposition. As soon as the Gladers arrive, though these people feed, cloth, and bed him and his friends, Thomas knows this group is up to no good. Aris, played by Jacob Lofland, has been at the military installation for several weeks and seeks Thomas out because he thinks he knows the meaning behind why several kids from the compound leave and don't return. Aris knows instinctively that Thomas' friends will listen to him and follow his lead, so he shows Thomas what's going on, and it's enough to send Thomas back to his room in a frenzy, warning his friends that they've got to leave immediately, though he won't leave without Theresa, who has been isolated from the group since their arrival. Once they collect her, the Gladers, along with Aris and newcomer Winston, played by Alexander Flores, must leave the compound and head out into the desolate, harsh conditions of the Scorch, where surely the elements will kill them...that is, if the Cranks don't get them first, all in search of a resistance group known as "The Right Arm."

If the above paragraph doesn't lay it out clearly enough, there is a lot going on in this film, and yet at every turn, it's always clear what's going on. Everything is laid out very nicely in a thrilling, engaging manner. "The Scorch Trials" is filled with some very tense and exciting moments, and we were on the edge of our seats more than once. Hell, it might even have more action than the first "Maze Runner" movie, which we thought was chock full of it! The addition of the zombie-like creatures known as Cranks left for some very unexpected, almost horror-esque moments as these fast-moving former humans chase our protagonists in several scenes. These are not your "Walking Dead" slow-paced walkers but are really fast and creepy enough for a PG-13 rated action thriller sci-fi film. Unfortunately, there are times when the CGI, especially related to the Cranks, looks very fake and noticeably unrealistic. Luckily, the CGI and practical sets in this film make up for the errors elsewhere. Boy, are these kids given some tough, rough places to travel! On the acting front, sure, the acting could be better when you're dealing with relative newcomers, and sure, Dylan O'Brien often has the acting range of a smiling peanut, but overall, the kids in this movie have good chemistry and decent intentions to make people invested in seeing their final product. The addition of the new characters make for a lot of extra people, but with veteran actors like Aidan Gillen, Giancarlo Esposito, Lili Taylor, Barry Pepper, and more of the returning Patricia Clarkson, we found ourselves fully entertained. There are also some twists towards the end of the movie that leave a cliffhanger ending, of course, so we're just going to have to wait to see what happens for our Gladers next.

It seems like critics are so quick to judge these dystopic teen book-to-movie adaptations against the worst beast of them all, "The Hunger Games" quadrilogy. Sure, there are some similarities, but in my opinion, there are a lot more similarities between the "Divergent" quadrilogy than "Hunger Games," yet "The Maze Runner" still holds its own in a sea of sameness. Hey, there are also a lot of movies about uptight hipster New Yorkers trying to "make it" in the Big Apple, but critics don't seem to complain about those, now do they? As with all movies, though, this must be judged on its own merits, and we really like "The Maze Runner" movies thus far and are excited to see how it all ends.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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