Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Scorch Trials

Year: 2015
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Barry Pepper, Aidan Gillen, Patricia Clarkson, Jacob Lofland

Plot: Thomas and his friends have escaped the maze, and are taken in by a man named Janson who promises them protection and safety, only to realise he's quite the opposite. They run away yet again, only to face the horrors of the outside world.

Review: The Maze Runner was a nice surprise last year and a fine addition to the rising YA novel adaptation craze that began with Twilight and the tiring Hunger Games which will finally wrap up later this year. Even more surprising is how quickly they followed it up with this sequel.

In The Scorch Trials, Thomas, Teresa, Newt, Minho, Frypan and Winston arrive at a secure facility run by Janson, who promises the kids safety and a new home for them. Thomas senses something amiss, and his fears are confirmed when a fellow survivor from another maze (yes there are other mazes), Aris, leads him to the truth. The kids decide to run again, out into the open desert, where they encounter infected people that look like zombies, ruined cities and a pirate like man named Jorge.

Credit must be given to Wes Ball, who has successfully expanded and built the world around The Maze Runner. This time around he has a larger set to play with and more characters to introduce. I particularly liked the ruined city where a suspenseful chase sequence between Thomas and the infected takes place. Admittedly, a lot of scenes in this film are reminiscent of other films like The Island, World War Z, As Above, So Below and even The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but Ball uses what he has and presents them well so they don't look like complete ripoffs.

As for characters, Thomas and the newer ones get more screen time here, leaving others like Newt, Minho and Teresa with much less than before. At the very least, the entire cast perform splendidly, with Dylan O'Brien showing more confidence in the lead role of Thomas. Giancarlo Esposito is solid as Jorge, a role that I can imagine someone like Peter Stormare playing. Jorge is a guy who worships the almighty dollar or whatever passes for currency, until he realises the kids' true worth. Aidan Gillen once again plays the sneaky character type well as Janson, while Barry Pepper and Lili Taylor provide good support as the rebels that are against WICKED, though they only appear in the last third of the film. Watch out for Alan Tudyk in a minor role as a club owner. 

The film does suffer from an uneven pace, and at times it feels like Ball is trying to cram too much information into his piece, which is obvious in the climactic sequence. And there are still some moments when the dialogue suffers from cliched questions and responses. However the many twists and turns towards the end succeeds in giving the audience some answers, if not all, and promises more in the inevitable third instalment.

Bottom line is, if you had seen and enjoyed the first film, you ought to see this one. Personally I feel that this franchise is more exciting than both The Hunger Games and Divergent. But that's just me. (7/10)

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