Yet another sequel for your film review consumption. The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is considered ‘safe’. Not thrilling, or even exciting but safe, in that its director sticks to the book’s adaptation with little, it seems, by way of creative venture. Neither the presence of a wicked organisation and zombies, nor the action of endless running through a desert environment, can fill the plot holes, especially when not much can be said about the acting. Fortune’s in-house film critic Christian Tesfaye, remains unimpressed by The Scorch Trials ratings at the US box-office and awards it only half marks, five out of 10 stars.

There are certain moments in movies that have been shown so often, we all recognise them instantly and roll our eyes when we see them. One of these instances is when the hero gives “the big speech”. He usually stands on some kind of dais opposite to everyone else, and speaks to his cohorts with a kind of monotone that keeps increasing in range and is played to an uplifting score. He begins by mentioning his exhaustion with what has been the status quo, and how much he intends to change it. Then he tells them that they are all going against a force that is too big for them to fight. That challenging it is an absurdity which would undoubtedly result in their demise, that the mission he is asking them to be a part of would be suicidal and that he would understand if they chose not to follow him. The scene usually ends with cheers and applause and everyone signing up for sketchy survival odds.

Audiences may love this cliché because it may lead to a great third act. For the protagonist, it is his/her means to shine and show tenacity, aggressiveness and a zest for justice. More importantly, all heroes know that they will never ever die, no matter how impossible the quest, so they give this speech with complete eagerness. What I do not get is why the supporting characters are so giddy about it. Especially in a post apocalyptic thriller movie like The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials that involves evil organisations and a zombie infestation.

The Scorch Trials is the so-so sequel we have all been reluctantly expecting, to last year’s under average The Maze Runner. It is adopted from the young adult fiction of the same name. Its protagonist is known as Thomas and the film’s (like the book) story takes place right after he and his not-so-merry band of followers have been rescued from the maze in the first movie.

They are all taken to a facility which is run by a vague individual called Mr. Johnson, who promises hugs and kisses for nothing in return. There they discover that they are not the only ones to have been dumped in a colossal maze and have escaped (such a person is called a Glader). From the facility, every other day, a certain number of Gladers are taken to a safe haven where they live their lives happily ever after, or so says Mr. Johnson. The hitch is that no one hears from the chosen ones ever again.

As is the luck of multimillion dollar film franchise characters, the place is actually controlled by W.C.K.D. (the same organisation that put them in the maze). After realising this, Thomas persuades his friends to escape from the facility, and they do so in the most ridiculous manner imaginable (there are security cameras only in places that do not really matter) to the Scorch. But what is so bad about the Scorch anyway? Well, it is a desert outland that stretches for miles and miles and is plagued by zombies (which, in the movie, are called Cranks), and as the title implies the film deals with the attempts of Thomas and his friends, to survive the Scorch.

Some movies are about the human nature and the depths (or the heights) it would go to achieve certain things. Others are about love or hatred and maybe even death. The Scorch Trials is, more or less, about running. There is an awful lot of running in this movie; it seems like most of the actors were chosen for their ability to run through successive takes rather than their ability to act. There is a point in the film where even the protagonist notices this and announces, “I am tired of running.” And if I did not have any theater etiquette, I would have said aloud, “So are we.”

The man behind the camera is Wes Ball. The only other film he has ever made is this film’s predecessor and since everything he has ever done is an adaptation of a bestselling book series that he cannot alter in any discernable way, it is impossible to tell what kind of filmmaker he actually is. He is the director of this film and the previous one together with the executive producers, the producers and the author. What this results in is what I would like to call the “safe syndrome.”  He plays by the rules and makes sure his PG-13 audience will not learn too much about life.

Like every other sci-fi film ever made, The Scorch Trials contains plot holes, but so much more than is normally allowed, that it gets distracting to watch. Unlike the Indiana Jones or 007 series, where we do not mind the plot holes, because they are not supposed to be all that serious, this film loses a lot of edge when it fails to generate a believable story line.

But who needs a credible storyline? The film is one of the so called Blockbusters, to which applying the word realistic or believable would end up making it an oxymoron. It is the kind of film I would recommend for anyone that does not like a good film. Furthermore, this is the kind of film that is playing on the popularity of young adult book adaptations. It is essentially The Hunger Games or Divergent with a male protagonist; watching it is completely redundant. But since it has opened at number one at the US box-office, who am I to talk?


Published on Sep 29,2015 [ Vol 16 ,No 804]



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