-- Starring Aiden Gillen and Dylan O’Brien
Two-and-a-half out of five stars
This trilogy is getting trying.
For those of you afraid there would be no running now that the kids are out of the maze, don’t worry! There’s still running. A LOT of running. But now there’s running across a dessert! Running up a fallen office building! Running in a concrete prison! In fact, I would say the sequel to “The Maze Runner” has even more running than the original. Which isn’t exactly a selling point.
“The Scorch Trails” picks up right where “The Maze Runner” left off: The teens from The Glade have been “rescued” from the testing facility by a group of mercenaries, and flown to “safety.” The whole mission is run by Janson, played by Aiden Gillen, whom we think is there to help Thomas and other teens rescued from other mazes -- but come on. Anyone familiar with Gillen’s stellar work on “Game of Thrones” knows Lord Baelish isn’t to be trusted for a second.
Our hero, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), is immediately suspicious upon being locked down in a new facility, while being told his fellow mazers are basically being sent to a farm to frolic in the sun with puppies. He knows they’re not, we know they’re not, and frankly, it’s weird they don’t know they’re not.
It’s one of many things that just don’t make sense here, and lead to questions -- so many questions, all the way back to the first film. Why did Dr. Ava (Patricia Clarkson) fake her death? How were the runners able to make such cool backpacks? And why did anyone go to such crazy, elaborate lengths to make the maze in the first place?
There are few answers to be had in “Scorch Trials.” We do learn more about the back story of Thomas and Teresa, and why young’uns are the key to curing mankind. But we don’t learn nearly enough, and that’s the main problem. The viewer must spend too much time trying to figure out why everything is happening, and not enough time enjoying the well-crafted chase and action scenes.
And don’t forget the zombies. There’s a lot more horror this time around -- the robotic spiders from the first film have been replaced by zombie-like Cranks, creatures transformed by the virus into horrifying living-dead mutants. They get a fair amount of screen time, though ultimately they’re more gross than scary.
Along with the horror, several other genres show up. Indeed, “Scorch Trials” feels a bit like a recipe: add a cup of “Walking Dead,” two glops of “Max Max,” a pinch of “I Am Legend,” a sprinkle of “Hunger Games,” a dash of “Alice in Wonderland,” and stir. And if that sounds disjointed, it is.
There is stuff to like here, though. The acting is solid, for the most part. The sets are visually striking. And there’s this odd theme carried over from the first film of life being precious at all costs so one gets left behind, which I find rather endearing.
But ultimately, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials leaves us with too many unanswered questions about this world, the virus, why they need to harvest teens, and OH YEAH, WHY DID THEY BUILD THE MAZE -- so many questions, I just can’t find much satisfaction here. Maybe the third movie will wrap it all up. But four hours into the franchise, my patience is wearing thin.