“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” or “Maze Runner 2” as it is commonly known, is Wes Ball’s screen versions of James Dasher’s second novel in his young-adult, post-apocalyptic, science fiction “The Maze Runner” book series. My teenage daughter accompanied me to the cinema to see this 132 minutes long, PG-13 rated film like she had done last year with the first Maze Runner-film, but this time our roles were reversed. Where she had loved the first one and I had been a little reserved, I loved this sequel whereas she was not impressed.
The story begins where we left the six surviving Gladers in the first film, in a helicopter on the way away from the maze. The six, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Winston (Alexander Flores) arrive at a mysterious facility run by Mr. Janson (Aidan Gillen) in the deserted outside world called the Scorch. Here Thomas makes a horrifying discovery with his new friend Aris (Jacob Lofland), so our young heroes escape the facility and have to survive the trials of the Scorch in the attempt to reach the resistance group The Right Arm in the mountains. The trials include troops from the powerful organization WCKD run by Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), the zombifying Flare virus, the Cranks who are people zombified by the Flare and then of course thunderstorms, drugs and bounty hunters! On their way, they meet Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) who help them along and there is a wonderful although short appearance by Lili Taylor as Mary.
I found this second instalment in The Maze Runner film series much more thrilling and action-packed than the first and to me there wasn’t a dull moment. I also really liked the acting of especially Giancarlo Esposito and Thomas Brodie-Sangster and to be honest there was hardly anything I didn’t like. Maybe our young hero Thomas has become a bit too heroic and too much of a superman and maybe the title “The Scorch Trials” is a bit misleading as the youngsters seem to spend less time in The Scorch than elsewhere and the trials are few and repetitious, but these are minor objections. I guess what annoyed me the most was that the zombified Cranks were able to screech and run very fast. I am from a time when zombies only groaned and walked very slow so you could always outrun them, but that is not the case anymore, my daughter assured me. And that brings us back to why our roles as viewers were reversed this time.
You see, the first film “The Maze Runner” was more or less a rip-off of “Lord of the Flies”, Nobel Prize-winning William Golding’s brilliant 1954-novel that has been filmed several times. I know and love this book (and the early film version), but my daughter does not and that made “The Maze Runner” new and exciting to her. “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” on the other hand is a rip-off of the American TV-series “The Walking Dead” (2010- ) of which my daughter is an avid fan, but as I have never seen it, the Maze Runner sequel was exciting to me.
I’m not sure if it is a good idea to rip-off other people’s work instead of stay true to your source, but that is what Wes Ball does in this film. The action has very little to do with the plot in James Dasher’s novel, but a lot to do with “The Walking Dead”. It is up to you if you take this as a warning or a recommendation. It worked for me, so I’ll give “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” three and a half out of five stars: ***½.