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

Running time: 132 minutes

Director: Wes Ball

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The first Maze Runner movie was quite solid until they threw it all away trying to set up the sequel, leaving the audience with tones of unanswered questions. Now, if you do something that stupid, the sequel should better pay off. Unfortunately, this is not the case of The Scorch Trials, which, not only doesn’t answer any of the questions from the first movie, it raises even more and once again, leaves it all for the sequel. As a side note, I’m not going to review this movie as the adaptation of the book because little it had to do with what I once read on page. The adaptation is so vague that even though they kept the “trials” in the title, the changes in the story don’t have any trials and they are never acknowledged in the movie. They could have called it just The Scorch for all that it mattered.

Let’s dive into it. The movie picks up right where the first one left off, with Thomas and the rest of the Gladers that escaped the Maze being brought to a safe place away from WCKD and the Flare, a disease that affects the brain and affects most of the population, turning them into Cranks. There, they discover that theirs, wasn’t the only Maze and this first hour of the movie was actually really good. Dylan O’Brien does again a great job selling Thomas. He is likable and has such a weird way of running that makes it even more believable that he is in dangerous situations. Aiden Gillen as Janson is a great addition to the cast. He serves as the villain of this installment, and the character fits him like a glove, especially if you are used to seeing him as Littlefinger in Game of Thrones.

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Once they realized that they are still in the hands of WCKD, they escape the compound and venture into the Scorch, a vast desert that has end up with all signs of civilization. It is from this point going on where the movie starts to suffer. It all revolves around going from one place to another and finding some difficulties along the way. They get to the rebels, they don’t trust them and WCKD finds them. They find the Right Arm, they don’t trust them and WCKD finds them. It is pretty much the same over and over again.

And as a consequence of not being much story in it and not giving any answers, the characters are not well-developed. The Gladers, because they don’t have any memories, there’s not much depth into any of them. There was some character develolment in the first one because there was more talking, here it’s just walking from one place to the next and running away from the cranks. They are likable, though, except for Theresa, who it’s in the same note as in the first one and keeps making it impossible to understand why Thomas cares so much about her.

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As expected in a movie called The Maze Runner, there is a lot of running and those scenes are very well done. You get the sense of danger and the director handles the action really well. There are also some beautiful shots but, unlike in Mad Max: Fury Road, the great action doesn’t make up for the weak story telling and the final part, The Death Cure, better do an amazing job at explaining everything and make it have sense to take the trilogy from being merely entertaining to meaningful. In the end,  The Maze Runner is not at the level of The Hunger Games but it is definitely better than Divergent.

6,75/10

This Week’s Movie News (29-3 oct)

Aidan Gillen joins The Maze Runner sequel

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With The Scorch Trials already greenlighted and set to open in theaters on September 18, 2015, the sequel to the Maze Runner needs to start filming very soon and the first addition to the film is Irish actor, Aidan Gillen, better known as Littlefinger from the HBO show, Game of Thrones. He will join the established cast to portray the main villain of the trilogy, Assistant Director Janson, aka Rat-Man.

Later this week was also announced that Rosa Salazar (who will appear in the Divergent franchise as Lynn), Jacob Lofland (Mud) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) have joined the cast as Brenda, Aris and Jorge, three major roles in the following installments.

I’m very excited about this piece of news. Game of Thrones fans will already know how good Aidan Gillen is in this type of roles and he actually has quite the look of Rat-Man. I do like Rosa Salazar as Brenda but Jacob Lofland seems to me too young to play Aris compared to the other cast members and Giancarlo Esposito is too old.

Daniel Radcliffe joins Now You See Me 2

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It seems Daniel Radcliffe is returning to the world of magic. Sir Michael Caine himself has revealed in an interview with Hey You Guys! that the Harry Potter actor will play his son in the Now You See Me sequel.

“There’s a sequel to Now You See Me and we’re shooting in London. I shoot in December, the whole of December in London, and my son is Harry Potter. I thought it’d be funny, me and Daniel Radcliffe as father and son.”

In the first Now You See Me, Michael Caine portrayed Arthur Tressler, an insurance magnate and the Four Horsemen’s sponsor who is later betrayed, so it would be interesting seeing him and his son looking for revenge.

Radcliffe will also join the returning cast Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and Morgan Freeman. Now You See Me 2, directed by Jon M Chu, is set for June 10, 2016.

Pirates of the Caribbean 5 to start shooting in February

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After so many delays and though it won’t come out until 2017, it has finally been confirmed that the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean installment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, will start filming in February in Australia. Of course, Johnny Depp is returning to reprise his role as Jack Sparrow, but there’s no confirmation yet if Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Orlando Bloom or other previous cast members will join him.

Joaquin Phoenix won’t be Doctor Strange

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Until now we knew Joaquin Phoenix was reportedly in talks to play the title role in Doctor Strange but apparently the negotiations between the actor and Marvel Studios have ended. Most of the actors cast in Marvel films have to sign a multi-picture deal so they can be used in other installments but Joaquin Phoenix seemed to be hesitant to make such a commitment.

Doctor Strange is due to be released in July 2016 and start production soon but there’s still no announcement to whom will be Phoenix’s replacement as the Sorcerer Supreme.

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Movie Review: The Maze Runner (2014)

Title: The Maze Runner

Running time: 113 minutes

Director: Wes Ball

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Patricia Clarkson

Summary: When Thomas wakes up trapped in a massive maze with a group of other boys, he has no memory of the outside world other than strange dreams about a mysterious organization known as W.C.K.D. Only by piecing together fragments of his past with clues he discovers in the maze can Thomas hope to uncover his true purpose and a way to escape.

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Nowadays it seems every single book written for teenagers is being translated into film, though not all of these adaptations have succeed to impress at the box office. Based on the best-selling novel by James Dashner, The Maze Runner has already accomplished to get in its opening weekend an official date for the sequel, The Scorch Trials. Exploring again a post apocalyptic dystopian future, it has a darker tone than what we’re used to get in these young adult stories. And, having read the books, I actually liked this movie more than I thought I would. It catches perfectly the sense of being isolated and has some really intense scenes where you believe the characters are in real danger.

The Maze Runner follows the newcomer to the Glade, Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brian who gives a very solid performance. He’s the only actor on camera in every single scene and manages to take you through his journey. We see everything from his point of view, and we know only what he knows and discover what it’s going on as he does. The problem this creates is that we find out everything by him asking and someone else explaining. Surely they could have found a way to do that in a more sophisticated way.

Will Poulter did a fantastic work playing Gally, the antagonist to the story, but sometimes it felt like his character would make certain decisions just for the sake of contradicting the others, especially Thomas. Still, it was a better character than in the book. Ki Hong Lee was very good as Minho too and he had some really cool looking scenes running through the maze.

My stand out though was Thomas Brodie-Sangster, even though he didn’t have much on-screen time as there were too many characters to establish and develop all of them, he did a phenomenal job as Newt. He’s always very subtle in his performance and that works very good for him.

I never liked Teresa that much in the books and I wasn’t a fan of her here either. Not because Kaya Scodelario was bad, she was actually fine but for me her character never made any sense, she didn’t contribute at all to the story and I never sympathized with her. Though I like that there wasn’t any romantic element in her relation with Thomas, their connection in the book was much more powerful.

They changed how the gladers discover a way out of the maze but I was ok with it. While it worked on paper it would have been difficult to portray on-screen and they managed to solve it in a great way.

When it takes place in the Glade or in the maze this movie is awesome but it starts to crumble when it tries to explain everything and set up the sequel. I had the same problem with the end that I had with the book. I seems like the author wrote the story and at the very end decided to do a trilogy and came up in that moment with something to keep the story going. I let that pass in the book but I would have liked if the movie had tried to sustain it throughout the plot so it would have made sense at the end. Also, we get a scene that is 100% exposition and that is the laziest way to resolve anything.

So, The Maze Runner starts with a very interesting premise, the story is intriguing, the scenery looks pretty good but in the third act everything falls apart. It tries to build up the tension for the big revelation and completely fails by making it so boring and easy. Still, is way better than some other genre movies that has come out in the last couple of years.

7’5/10

The Maze Runner Official Trailer

This is the second trailer for The Maze Runner, based on the young adult book of the same name by James Dashner.

I watched this trailer with the constant feeling of already having seen it. Normally second trailers are used to unveil another part of the story but this one uses a lot of the same shots from the first one with very minor changes.

The book is quite different from other young adult stories but the trailer makes it look a lot like The Hunger Games and Divergent, when regarding tone it actually resembles more Lord of the Flies. It’s interesting that the story is told by a male perspective when this genre is often female-led these days (Beautiful Creatures and Percy Jackson haven’t done too well at the box office). But what really makes me excited for The Maze Runner is Will Poulter and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, very talented actors. I can’t wait to see them in such different roles from what they’ve done until now.

The Maze Runner hits theaters on September 19, 2014.