What the hell is it about Young Adult fiction writers depicting stories of adults trying to kill teenagers in increasingly obtuse ways? First we had the Hunger Games killing teens to allow the authoritarian government to keep its people in line. Then we had Divergent keep teens in high school cliques or have them put to death to allow the authoritarian government to keep its people in line. And now we had the Maze Runner that initially put teens in a maze to weed out other teens that can give them life saving medicine to allow the authoritarian government to keep its people in line. ARE YOU NOTICING A BLOODY PATTERN YET?
Anyways, we continue on from the first Maze Runner movie (if you didn’t see it, read the previous paragraph, sums it up) as we follow Thomas and his band of maze runners taken to a halfway station where they’ll be taken to a safe haven free of Cranks, zombified humans that resulted from a solar flare hitting the Earth…yes if that sounds stupid, hold tight, it gets dumber. Turns out the halfway station is actually a place where they literally harvest teenagers to produce a medicine that will cure the solar flare zombies, but for some reason they can only use teenagers who have survived a bunch of death traps in a maze like that last movie (told you this was going to get dumber).
Anyways no one should be surprised by this because the leader of the station is played by Aiden Gillian, you know, fucking Littlefinger from Game of Thrones. Even as he says “trust me” you know good and goddamn well you should definitely NOT trust him. So Thomas of course has to spy on him to determine that he is evil and working for the WICKED Organization. That’s correct. The antagonists call themselves “WICKED” (an acronym for something I didn’t pay attention for self-evident reasons) because “Kitten-Stranglers-R-Us” must have been copyrighted.
So Thomas leads his band from the last movie across the Scorch, the dystopian remains of civilization reduced to a sand blasted desert. His pals are, in order of importance to the plot: the girl, the British boy, the pasty white boy, the Asian boy, the Indian boy, and the Black boy. Nope don’t even remember their names since not one of them is given an iota of character development or even personality. Besides I’m doing a favor for some of them calling them that, the Black Kid’s name in the movie is, no shit, Frypan.
After trekking through the Scorch with some decent, but nothing spectacular, zombie action we run into Giancarlo Esposito (yup, Gus from Breaking Freaking Bad) as Jorge and his adopted daughter, Brenda. Thank God for them because they brought some color and life into this boring slog. For one they both have distinct personalities and easily defined character motivations. Far more than can be said for the rest of the cast, including the main character of Thomas.
It’s not that he nor any of the other teens are bad actors, it’s just that the script doesn’t give any of them any time to explore what they’re thinking or even giving a vague glimpse of their personality besides “wanting to survive.” You need to give us something more to latch onto. Harry Potter was a good kid who had a messiah complex that ended up hurting more people than he actually helped and he’s wrecked with guilt. Katniss Everdeen is willing to put her own life and sanity on the line for the sake and safety of her younger sister. These are examples of how to do character motivation correctly. Unfortunately, this film has none of that and is saddled with a unremarkable script that’s way too light on what the high holy hell is going on because we gotta run to the next set piece.
Thus it’s left to the action direction to pick up the slack with a script this thin and characters this poorly defined. But even then, everything shown is something that you’ve seen dozens of times before. And once you realize that WICKED only uses stun weapons against everyone, then all tension zips away. Littlefinger is basically the only bad guy who actually uses a lethal weapon once in the whole damn movie and it’s to kill an unarmed prisoner to show how “evil” they are.
It’s pretty weak sauce, but I didn’t hate this film entirely. I think I like this better than Insurgent earlier this year, but that’s only because that movie was literally putting me to sleep. This at least has more action and Esposito is at least interesting to watch in the latter half of the film. Nothing about this movie is horrid, but there’s really nothing to recommend either. Gonna have to give this a low…