Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials abandons the Maze for an on the run trek through a YA dystopian world. Like other Young Adult book sequels, The Scorch Trials was published a year after The Maze Runner. The movie adaptation of course follows the same pattern of an annual release. Although I liked The Maze Runner well enough, my brother was still on his own seeing the sequel in theaters. I just wasn’t sure how to feel without the Maze that drew me in the first place. The titular “Scorch” refers to what became of the Earth when the solar flares hit. Its a post-apocalyptic wasteland with destroyed buildings and sand covering everything else.
Thomas, Teresa, Newt, Minho, Frypan, and Winston are sent to a presumably safe location where they discover they weren’t the only Maze. Their newest ally Aris was once part of a gender flipped “Group B” Maze where he was the only boy amongst a society of girls. Dylan O’Brien gives Thomas a bit more definable depth as he becomes a leader and starts to have conflicting thoughts regarding WCKD. Kaya Scodelario is similarly conflicted as Teresa, but much more mysterious about it. The often punchable Aidan Gillen is the clearly evil Mr. Janson who hunts the former Gladers down when they discover he’s working for WCKD. Ava Paige is also still alive to continue experimenting on teens in order to find a cure. The previously hinted at “Cranks” are revealed to be zombie-like Flare infected humans with disturbing veiny appearances.
The Scorch action is entertaining, if very similar to other zombie movies. The most memorable sequence is a bomb detonating to the tune of “Walking After Midnight.” The explosion was set off by Scorch survivors Jorge and Brenda. Giancarlo Esposito’s Jorge is the father figure to the up and coming Rosa Salazar’s Brenda. A love triangle of sorts forms between Thomas, Teresa, and Brenda, but it’s not entirely mutual. It’s mostly seen when Thomas and Brenda are sidetracked by the partying Blondie giving them hallucinatory drugs. When the group reunites, they make their way to a resistance group called the “Right Arm.” SPOILER ALERT! Alliances begin to crumble as WCKD ambushes the Right Arm and Teresa decides to join them. I should be satisfied by Thomas declaring his intent to kill Ava Paige, but the sequel didn’t feel conclusive enough for me to care. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials cranks up the action, but fails to tell an engaging enough story.