And the award for most disappointing sequel of 2015 goes to Scorch Trials, the follow-up to 2014’s actually-quite-good Maze Runner. Helmed once again by Wes Ball, the film kicks off right where the last one left us – Thomas (played enthusiastically by Dylan O’Brien) and his group are ‘rescued’ and sent into a menacing facility where other young groups – each previously having their own maze – are waiting for them. Cue an expected escape from the building after Thomas unearths horrifying secrets about who their captors are, with the remainder of the film taking place in the sun-scorched open air, the gang encountering numerous obstacles that move the plot along, though not swiftly enough.
Right from the off, it’s made clear that the novel isn’t being adapted from, but rather being used as a source of inspiration. There are certain elements of James Dashner’s best-seller that remains untarnished, but most of the plot is replaced and restructured in order to either make the flick more palatable to a modern audience, or to avoid breaching the slim budgetary constraints. Though despite the film being limited by its budget, it comes across as a $20m flick rather than $60m, thanks to dodgy effects and the use of shaky-cam to obscure action.
Simply put, the new plot that this sequel has is just not good enough. The directing is admirable, the acting fine – though a league below its predecessor – and the camerawork impressive for a YA adaptation. The plot, however, is deeply convoluted, fatuous, and irritatingly generic. In my Maze Runner review, I praised the film for its refreshing refusal to bow down to YA tropes. Sadly, Scorch Trials doesn’t follow suit, integrating a tepid love plot, uninspired zombies and somehow finding room for a celebratory house-party – yes, in the middle of a dusty, zombie-ravaged world. Revelations concerning the film’s characters and the series’ overarching plot arise every now and then amid the contrived chaos, but you hardly care – you’re just lost trying to find out whether each plot point the film undergoes has relevance or even makes sense in context of the film. Here’s a hint: it doesn’t.
– Gus Edgar