Plot: After a bold escape from the horrific maze, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his friends find themselves in some kind of compound, which also houses survivors from other mazes around the world. A man named Janson (Aiden Gillen) is in charge and seems interested in what Thomas can remember, especially what he can recall about his time with WCKD. Janson also reveals that Thomas and the others are the lone hope for a cure to a horrific virus, as they’re all immune and could be part of the solution that saves all of mankind. But Thomas doesn’t trust Janson and soon, discovers that some shady things are going down and while he doesn’t know all the details, he knows enough to know he wants to leave as soon as possible. Of course, Janson and his crew don’t want that to happen, but Thomas engineer and escape for himself and his friends, or are they at the mercy of this mysterious organization?
Entertainment Value: The first Maze Runner movie was better than I expected, with an interesting narrative and an effective, almost claustrophobic atmosphere. This sequel opts for a more traditional action driven approach however, which doesn’t produce as interesting of a movie. At one point, I assumed the movie was winding down and close to the end, but there was well over an hour left, so this is one that had me checking me watch often. At over two hours in length, The Scorch Trials just doesn’t have the depth to support that duration and by turn, long stretches are dull and tiresome. I don’t often feel like watching a movie is a chore, but that is how I felt at times during this one, it just drags in places. The production values are impressive and the cast is stacked with talent, but it never comes together. I’ve never read the book, but I’ve been told a number of changes were made, including some that altered core narrative choices. In any case, I just think this would have been more enjoyable if it wasn’t so bloated and packed with filler scenes.
As I said above, this movie has a thin narrative, but when it leans on more tense, action driven elements, it works a little better. I think if this was ninety minutes, it would still tell the same story, feel more kinetic, and not be so chock full of filler, as that is what a lot of the scenes here come off as. The action scenes aren’t grand spectacle, but they add some welcome life to the experience and thanks to some great production values, they at least look polished. I do think the movie assembles a terrific cast, but they’re just not given much to work with here. Aiden Gillen, Patricia Clarkson, Barry Pepper, Giancarlo Esposito, and Lili Taylor are all insanely talented, but squandered by the movie’s dull and lifeless script. A number of actors return from the original as well, with Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scoledario, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster back in action, but none of the returnees stand out much. I wanted to like The Scorch Trials, as I feel like it was set up well by the first movie, but in the end, this one is too bloated and dull to recommend, even as a rental.