Not a Scorching Success
By Mason Manuel
Not being a fan of the original novels, I was pleasantly surprised by 2014’s The Maze Runner. The world built was interesting, many of the characters were multifaceted and the plot had some genuine thrills. This year’s entry in the series The Scorch Trials tries to repeat the same formula, though sadly with much less satisfying results. Upon the original’s success, Trials gets more breathing room to be bigger and explore than its’ predecessor but never takes advantage of the opportunity. Instead, the plot falls down more into the basic teen drama house that Hunger Games and Divergent has built by focusing more on the borderline ridiculous villains and inconvenient love triangles between people that are way too good looking to be living in the world they inhibit.
Thomas and the gang are thrown back into yet another perilous environment only this time… it’s DIFFERENT. Following the fallout of the maze escape, the group has been thrust into the Scorch; an insanely dangerous desert filled with dangerous elements and Flare virus infected individuals known as “Cranks” who are basically zombies. Taken in by a seemingly friendly organization headed up by Game of Thrones star Aldrich Killan, the Gladers are made to feel right at home along with a number of other teens who were apparently put into mazes of their own. Despite this newfound comfort, Thomas isn’t convinced. Paranoid that WCKD is still out there, he investigates more into their new home. Unsurprisingly, it turns out their newest patrons are none other than WCKD themselves, and that their great escape was orchestrated simply to continue on the Glader’s trials. Thomas and friends must once again escape from their captors and try to find help in the desolate wasteland of the Scorch.
Obviously I wasn’t thrilled by this film but that’s not to say it is without merit. Dylan O’ Brien gets more room to shine here as Thomas, being thrust into more of a leadership role in the absence of the main Gladers from the previous film. Unfortunately as Thomas develops, his cohorts suffer. Whereas in the last film most of the main Gladers all had their own room to make a statement at one point or another, Trials robs them of any real time, making it hard to remember many of the groups name’s or why they are important. When unfortunate events occur to a member you are forced to sit there saying, “Oh no! Not… that guy!” Emotional dedication can be hard when you do not even remember who someone is. This plight is not helped with the addition of a number of new characters who are for the most part way more interesting than most of the Gladers. Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Espositio comes in as a nefarious sort along with his mysterious Brenda played by general newcomer Rosa Salazar. This pair along with a brief appearance by Firefly’s Alan Tudyk make for much more interesting screen time than the Gladers and the original group suffers in their shadow.
Despite being over two hours long with a bigger budget and larger aspirations as a film, nothing really happens in Trials. The kids escape. The kids run in the desert. Annnnnnd that’s really about it. There are bigger explosions and more practical sets with some cool action sequences for sure… just nothing else. There is no substance. No real character development. Kaya Scodelario as Teresa is just as useless and out of place before and really only serves to be an awkward love interest. Save for Thomas and a few of the new entries, there really is no motivation to be invested in this adventure whatsoever. It’s too bad because after such a great set up from the last film, and devastating effects from the source material regarding the end of the trilogy, Trials should have really capitalized on the opportunity it had to be the sequel that outshone the original. As it is, The Scorch Trials does not try enough and wastes its’ potential.
In the end, this entry of the series is not worth the theatre money. Despite the added star power and attempted dramatic climax the beat never hits. The world, which was so dynamic in Maze Runner, becomes as boring and empty as many of the background Gladers. With little to no enganging movements and a story executed way under par, the film is immediately forgettable. RDR gives this a scorching score of 5 out of 10.