Sunday, September 13, 2015


Dylan O’Brien   Kaya Scodelario   Patricia Clarkson   Lili Taylor   Thomas Brodie-Sangster   Aidan Gillen   Ki Hong Lee   Giancarlo Esposito
          The title Maze Runner is apt in that the protagonists seem to run during almost the entire movie.  In The Scorch Trials, a group of kids are racing through “The Scorch”, which is desolate, sandy, hot terrain and bombed out cities with buildings caving in, and they have zombie-like beings and others chasing after them for one reason or another.  It’s rather remarkable through all this that they seem to survive for days without much food or water.  The film opens with a group of teenagers routed out of bed and told to run (with the implication they are being rescued).  And in fact, they are taken to a place where someone named Janson (Gillen) repeatedly reassures them they are in a safe place and to “just relax.”  It appears to be true to the starved, beleaguered teens as they are fed and clothed and begin to feel content.  Except…
          One odd member of the group whom Thomas (O’Brien) doesn’t know takes him for an exploration at night that raises his concern.  Apparently Thomas (although unbeknownst to him because something has happened to his memory) is seen as a leader [“maybe they’ll listen to you”, says Newt (Brodie-Sangster)], not only by members of his group, but by others he encounters during the rest of the story.  They boys do find things that disturb them so much they plan an escape, but since they don’t know where they are, they have no idea where they’ll run to.
          And that’s the main part of this drama.  It’s a post-apocalyptic world as told in a trilogy (The Maze Runner) by the novelist James Dashner.  Scorch Trials is the fifth in a series of films based on Dashner’s Maze Runner novels.  This is actually the first one I’ve seen personally, but although there are references to previous events in the series, the film still stands on its own. 
          When Thomas and the others in his group discover that the experiments they are a part of might be dangerous to them, they attempt to escape but must go through the barren Scorch land to get to a safe place they’ve been informed about.  The researchers are hot on their trail, along with bounty hunters and the zombie-like creatures they meet along the way.  The questions become about whom they can trust and whether or not they’ll make it to their destination. 
          Although perhaps not as original as some would hope, the story is exciting and tense throughout, and the production design (Daniel T. Dorrance) and set direction spectacular.  Director Wes Ball, Musician John Paesano and Cinematographer Gyula Pados, worked together in previous Maze productions and all contribute to the quality of this one.  Young Dylan O’Brien—who was Thomas in the 2014 production—is a fine actor who holds his own as the lead.  Other actors (Clarkson, Taylor, Gillen, and Lee) are likewise forceful in their presentations. 

A fast-paced young adult thriller with panache.

Grade:  C+                                    By Donna R. Copeland

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