Starting where “Maze Runner” (2014) ended, this dystopian sequel re-introduces Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow survivors from The Glade: Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and Frypan (Dexter Darden), among others, being helicoptered to a heavily fortified, remote outpost. Read more>>
Greeted upon arrival by Janson (Aidan Gillen), they’re told they’re safely en route to The Promised Land. But their serenity is soon obliterated when suspicious Thomas is alerted by skeptical Aris (Jacob Lofland), an escapee from a different Maze.
Working for a mysterious, paramilitary organization called WCKD (pronounced “Wicked”), Janson is supervising a top-secret laboratory in which the blood from those who are immune to a virus called The Flare is harvested to find a cure.
Their escape leads to a long chase across a post-apocalyptic desert called The Scorch, which is inhabited by vicious zombies called Cranks. The teenagers are headed for the far-off mountains to join a resistance group called the Right Hand. Along the way, they’re befriended by profiteering Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and his protégé Brenda (Rosa Salazar).
Episodically adapted by T.S. Nowlin, who has made significant changes to James Dashner’s epic YA novels, it’s predictably directed by Wes Ball, blatantly borrowing from “Alien,” “Divergent” and other similar sci-fi features, while touching on the perennial theme of whether the end justifies the means.
Is it ever justifiable to sacrifice a segment of the population in an experiment to save the many? And when does civil responsibility triumph over individual rights?
Burdened by the lack of a backstory and devoid of character development, minimalist actors Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario simply react to circumstances, exhibiting little emotional range, making Thomas and Teresa less likeable this time ‘round.
Aiden Gillen (TV’s “Game of Thrones”) is a duplicitous villain, and Patricia Clarkson’s appearance indictes that menacing Dr. Ava Paige didn’t really die in the first film.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” is a derivative, filler 5, ending with a formulaic cliffhanger.