Inconsequential Death Cure

The three-part Maze Runner series that had begun back in 2014 has come to a hilt with a series finale that is subtitled The Death Cure. Its action is bigger but the film remains unsophisticated as always. Citing mainly an unexploited opportunity in the development of the film's philosophical side, Christian Tesfaye awards 5 out of 10 stars.

It is unfortunate that it was not the optimistic predictions of philosophers or the hippies of the late 1960s that seems to be coming true.

Post-2015 impressions are all doom and gloom – far-more in line with futuristic scenarios of dystopian adult fiction bestsellers such as The Hunger Games, Divergent or The Maze Runner series. Forget a society free from feelings of nationalism or religious extremism; an illiberal, undependable coal-addicted United States and a stronger authoritative China that is investing massively on Artificial Intelligence and clean energy betray a world galloping straight for a dark age.

But not to worry. Every dark age has a hero that will rescue the common folk from the rut of intolerance and ignorance, much similar to the Renaissance thinkers that liberated humankind from the Middle Ages. The only difference being that this time around, if dystopian adult science fiction can be believed, the heroes will wield guns, can make fantastic motivational speeches, and are extremely lucky and good-looking. They are somewhat short on the intellectual front though.

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure continues the story of Thomas et al’s struggles against a massive corporation known as WCKD. It picks up not long after the events of the second film, The Scorch Trials, where the group are betrayed by Thomas’ (Dylan O’Brien) love interest, Theresa (Kaya Scodelario), leading to the capture of a dear friend, Minho (Ki Hong Lee).

Thomas then decides to risk it all, and help Minho escape by breaking into the headquarters of WCKD, which is situated inside a futuristic city known as the Last City. But never a loner, even if his bravery seems too much like a suicide, Thomas is joined by his friend Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar, what a name!), another love interest, amongst others, all of it leading to the climax of the series finale.

Death Cure is an exception to an annoying feature final instalments, especially of adaptations of adult fiction series, have embraced, where they are broken down into two movies even though it is severely evident that there is not enough subject to merit such a split. It did work out for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, a book which I concur may have had too much plot for a single two-hour movie to juggle, but even then the filmmakers could have done what Peter Jackson did and opted for a four-hour cinema extravaganza, which is all the more fascinating.

But the two-part movie version of Mockingjay, the third Hunger Games instalment, only made it dull. The suspense could have been more sustained, and the film could have been richer in plot. The same goes for Allegiant, the third of the Divergent books that was broken up into two parts, the first of which performed terrible enough for its studio to consider to release the second one as a TV movie.

Death Cure does not sink to such abysmal levels as commerciality having to overshadow all notions of storytelling though. This is a movie that knows that there is no substance that could stretch to two movies in the book, thus puts everything that it has in one movie for a film that is more mature and exciting than what came before.

Of course, this may not be saying much. If there is one defining feature of the Maze Runner movies, it is that they are all, well, movies. Despite the zombies, the villainous omnipotent-like organisation and the shortage of artillery relative to the adversary, the world the films paint is still heavily lopsided towards the protagonist. Good will always win, the series seems to be telling us, without ever mentioning that “good” could catch a bullet by the stomach or find itself in a furrow without a deus ex machina.

In fact, the Death Cure is one long deus ex machina. Thomas is tolerably skilled enough to take care of himself, but the second he seems to have been hit by a cul-de-sac, lo and behold, there they are, friends with the adequate tools to give him a helping hand. The second WCKD noticed this they should have known that there is a God (an author in this case) actively rooting for the protagonist, and joined the hero’s side.

I liked the action sequences though. They are big and loud but closer to reality even if Thomas rarely gets a scratch. With a better script, the director, Wes Ball can even make a decent action film one day. It should not be all style and little substance or theme, the latter of which Ball completely disregards in this movie.

The Death Cure could have been a great movie in that there is an argument, between consequentialism (or utilitarianism) and deontology, which are opposites, and where the end justifies the means for the former. Thomas and others like him are naturally gifted to resist a virus that is on the verge of wiping out the human species. WCKD, an organisation which could have used a more comely brand name, subjects these lucky few to rigorous tests that may kill them, to figure out a cure, in the belief they are doing humanity a service.

What is a little sin if millions can be saved?

For those that resist WICKED though, there are moral principles that have to be respected, even if it kills humankind.

This could have been the crux of the movie, instead of the tasteless love triangle the filmmakers shove down our throats or cliché themes such as friendship and sacrifice. The unwillingness of the filmmakers to provide any cushion for those that look past the storyline is why this film is a dud, like the couple of prequels that came before it.


By Christian Tesfaye
Exclusive to Fortune

Published on Feb 03,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 927]



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