Movie Review: The latest ‘Maze Runner’ film triumphs well enough as derivative...

Movie Review: The latest ‘Maze Runner’ film triumphs well enough as derivative survival horror-action thrillers go, but makes for an unsatisfying, sequel that is confounding


In a 1939 short story by lifelong labyrinth aficionado Jorge Luis Borges, by stranding him in a convoluted maze he is built at his palace, the king of Babylonia efforts to embarrass the king of the Arabs, his guest. Angered, the Arabian king reacts by firing Babylonia, riding the competing king outside to the midst of the desert and leaving him to die, saying, “Permit me to show you my maze.” Featuring no labyrinths but lots of jogging, the film takes the living characters of the original and drops them to the midst of an entirely different kind of picture, this one a desert-set zombie pursuit. Normally successful on its own as a peculiar survival horror-action film for the pre-school set, only without making much sense in any way as portion of a bigger story, “The Scorch Trials” should ensnare a sound batch of its own predecessor’s $340 million global catch.

Together with the all-conquering “Hunger Games” show nearing its final stretch, fellow dystopian teen sci fi sagas “Maze Runner” and “Divergent” look equally poised to succeed it, but the former has one crucial advantage. Both show’ assumptions are asinine, but “Divergent” is very meticulous about totally describing its asinine assumption right from the beginning, whereas “Maze Runner” at least keeps up a little interest by abandoning its characters and its own audience totally in the dark about why anything is happening, and what any of it could potentially mean. (Also, this movie makes some fairly major developments to the essential storyline of James Dashner’s novel, meaning those who did read it’ll be nearly as mistaken as those who failed to.)

“The Scorch Trials” picks up just minutes following the very first movie finished, as protagonist Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his group of fellow teen “Gladers” are carried by helicopter into a distant fortified outpost.

(Not described in this picture: just the way the preceding movie’s labyrinth was assumed to gain anyone. On another note, also not mentioned in this picture, WCKD seemingly stands for “World Catastrophe Killzone Department,” which would be a horrible name to get a government agency even though its acronym were not pronounced like “evil.”)

Now, nevertheless, they are in the business of Janson (Aidan Gillen), an operative of indistinct accent who claims to be from a competing organization, and they have been unified with others who escaped similar labyrinths. You’d believe a couple of teens, all of whom were recently kidnapped and stranded to fight for his or her lives in the behest of a black paramilitary organization, could be at least a little leery of a purportedly distinct paramilitary operation that keeps them in close confinement and takes a couple of children away each night for a few form of “promotion,” never to be viewed again.

After some sleuthing through airshafts, the two find that Janson is in league with WCKD head honcho Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), along with the dead labyrinth smugglers happen to be strung up in a lab, “Matrix”-style, so WCKD can slowly empty them of their valuable resistance fluids. The Gladers and Aris period a daring jailbreak and getaway into “the Scorch,” the sunbaked desert landscape which has overtaken the world’s cities.

(The septet learns the hard way which not all are immune to the contagion, as well as the contaminated member’s tearful, solitary suicide is the very first of several astonishingly harsh minutes here.) Without any other choice, the group decides to head to the far off mountains, the place where a legendary resistance group known as the Right Hand might or might not offer safety.

Apparently the sole people left on earth having a sense of humor, the pair could be simply the guides to take the group or else they may be sold by them back to WCKD to get a finder’s fee.

Despite an overreliance on shaky-cam fast transitions, Ball periods several efficient sequences, especially a zombie pursuit upward through a skyscraper that is toppled that relies more to establish believability. He also makes time to get some scenes which are so strange they may come from a movie that is different.

More unusual than either of the scenes, nevertheless, is the reality that for an event-filled 131-minute movie, “The Scorch Trials” offers almost no character development and only hints of plot promotion, mainly simply functioning to transfer an organization of obliquely-inspired characters from one spot to another without giving much hint where the whole thing is headed. The first “Maze Runner” managed to pilfer components from both “Lord of the Flies” and “Block” to create a halfway believable teen hierarchy faced using a cryptic yet solid barrier; here, there is little actual awareness of group dynamics, as well as the main characters are just reactive, just trudging from one horror to another waiting for somebody to tell them what is happening.

When the closing episode — which hasn’t yet been split into two parts — arrives in 2017 naturally, they will presumably get their responses. But there is just so long observers will continue scurrying around the filmmakers’ small web before requiring the pellet that is darn .