The 2nd Maze Runner, with the subheading of THE SCORCH TRIALS, is a strong and focused sequel that delivers the best aspects of the first film while expanding the scope of not just the locales, but also that of the story. I still need to read the books, so please understand I’m reviewing the second Maze Runner only having seen the first film as the basis for my critique.
Dylan O’Brien (of Teen Wolf) reprises his role as Thomas, the leader of the surviving members of The Maze, nicknamed “The Gladers”, from the first film. The story and the film picks up immediately from the ending of the first Maze Runner. Teresa, Newt, Minho, Frypan, Winston, and Thomas are picked up by helicopters that will take them to a safe haven and away from WCKD, the devious company that put The Gladers in the Maze initially. Yet WCKD prove themselves to be resourceful, so Thomas and The Gladers are on the run once more. With Cranks an ever present threat in the Scorch (pretty much zombies in the expanse of land outside the walls of the Maze and the compound) plus the desert-like heat and WCKD and their hunter Janson (Aiden Gillen “Littlefinger” from Game of Thrones) hot on their tails, The Gladers look and run/walk to find the resistance in the faraway mountains beyond the Scorch.
That’s the story’s setup, with plenty of twists, turns, shocks, and surprises along the way. The less said about them the better, for your sake of enjoying them (if this film is your cup of tea).
The mysteries of the big whodunnit/quagmire of the series, who Thomas and Teresa are, and the why of WCKD’s pursuit is answered too, gradually as the layers of the mystery onion are removed (lol). Plus there are plenty of action and chase sequences in THE SCORCH TRIALS, sure to please fans of the first film and of the books. I still need to see how accurate the second book is to this second installment, but as far as I can tell the story that is told is cohesive and quite surprising to boot.
The acting is requisitely solid, though not as excellent as the now-wrapped YA novel-to-blockbuster-juggernaut THE HUNGER GAMES series. Aiden Gillen is always excellent as the villain, and that’s no different here. Patiricia Clarkson as Ava Paige, the mastermind of WCKD, is always great as well. The Gladers all turn in solid and moving performances, especially with the physicality they bring to their roles.
THE SCORCH TRIALS is a solid second installment that forgoes many a YA adaptation sequel stumbles by having a simple but smart story, an expanded and epic scope and score, and very good performances. Yet, at the same time the dialogue is sometimes clunky/wooden and more of a means to an end (point A-to-B exposition) type of deal than sounding like realistic conversation between or with real people.
With that aside, THE SCORCH TRIALS is still a solid continuation of The Maze Runner trilogy of films, with the finale set up to release for this fall. Here’s hoping that dialogue can get better, and that the third film ends on a high note (or however the story needs to).