The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Posted on September 17, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Copyright 20th Century Fox 2015
Copyright 20th Century Fox 2015

The first Maze Runner movie had an arresting premise and a solid structure, literally and metaphorcally. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), with his memory wiped, arrived at a mysterious facility called The Glade, populated entirely by teenage boys. It turned out to be an enormous maze that re-arranged itself every night, when horrible monsters called The Grievers came out and one sting from them caused madness.

Thomas figured out how to escape from the maze at the end of the film, but the triumph was tempered by indicators that his worst problems were just beginning and by our knowledge that there were two more books in the series by James Dasher scheduled to be made into movies. “The Scorch Trials” is the second.

This sequel is very much a transitional film, with non-stop action and not much story. It’s as though Dasher decided to throw just about every bad thing possible at Thomas and his small band of escapees from The Glade.

They are greeted warmly by a man whose first indicator of untrustworthiness is that he does not introduce himself. When asked, instead of saying his name, he says, “You can call me Janson” (Aiden Gillen). But the teenagers are so happy to have a shower, food, and real beds that they are not inclined to question the bleak, prison-like structure with high security doors. And Janson’s promise to send them to a place free of the virus and blight that wiped out most life on earth sounds so good that they believe it, especially when they see the other teenagers in the facility cheering each night as another group is selected to leave for the haven he described.

But Thomas is skeptical, and when Aris (Jacob Lofland), a boy who has been at the facility for weeks, takes him on a tour through the air ducts, they discover that instead of being brought to a wonderful new home the teens who have a genetic immunity to “the flare” disease that wiped out most humans are being taken to a medical facility to be drained of their blood for doctors working to find a cure, even at the expense of the kids’ lives. Thomas leads yet another escape, though Janson taunts him that no one can survive the Scorch, the wasteland conditions outside the bunker. Thomas and his friends, including Aris, battle sandstorms and lightning, zombies, and outlaws.

So much happens that it gets repetitive. If a major character appears trapped and you hear a bang, you can bet the bang is a last minute save from behind the bad guy. Some red shirts don’t make it and there are some twists of alliances and betrayals, but eventually it is more video game than story, raising questions that are more “how does this make sense?” than “looking forward to the answers in part three!”

Parents should know that the film has constant very intense peril and extensive violence including zombies, lethal medical procedures, guns, and explosions, suicides, some very disturbing images, many characters injured and killed, a kiss, some strong language, and teen substance abuse.

Family discussion: How is Thomas different from the other characters in the way he evaluates his options? Why did Teresa make her controversial decision?

If you like this, try: the books and the first movie in the series, the “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” movies

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Drama Science-Fiction Series/Sequel Stories about Teens
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