Superior sequel to The Maze Runner piles on the thrills.
If I were actually the age at which this film is targeted it would probably be my favourite of last year. Even though I’m not I still think it’s a terrific movie which manages to tick all the boxes that a big action film should. Having recently seen a certain two superheroes battling it out I have to say this is a far superior film. The Scorch Trials rarely stops to draw breath and its range of inventive perils is realised by director Wes Ball using balletic cameras and horror movie scares.
The action goes straight on from the first film and at first it seems as if the escaped Gladers have been rescued from the clutches of WCKD (that acronym still irritates!) and will soon be sent to a safe haven. However all is not what it seems in this holding facility and instead of leaving groups of youngsters are `harvested` as the immoral organisation tries to find a cure for the Flare. This is a rather horrifyingly depicted disease ravaging the adult population but from which some teenagers appear to be immune. Cue a break out of our group of heroes- this is a taster of how thrilling the action will be- and a trek across bleak desert landscapes and ruined cities. The exterior visuals are fantastic none more so than when the group reach the remains of an enormous city that towers over them.
As well as being pursued by WCKD’s Jansen (Aiden Gillen very much playing to his `I’m smiling but you know I’m really evil` type) the Gladers also have to avoid Cranks, zombie like people whose presence adds an extra tension. They are more likely to appear from semi darkness leading to some shock moments and the threat is palpable giving the film an edgy, unpredictable air. When they do attack is less choreographed as in so many horror movies but chaotic and fast. Having not read the book, I’m not sure how many of the scenarios come from that though apparently the Cranks are less zombie-like. Wherever they are from they make for some breathtaking moments notably a chase up the innards of a skyscraper that is already tilting into the road ending with confrontation on a cracking pane of glass.
Inevitably the blistering pace does mean that the actors have to make an impact in a minimum of lines and 95% of their time seems to be spent running! They do this quite well; the script manages to give everyone a moment. The story does overlap with some aspects of the Hunger Games franchise though these are less visible than in the first film. Our hero Thomas lacks Katniss’ political wiles but this means the film sheds some of its rival’s preciousness and becomes an earthier affair with danger lurking round very corner. The use of the Cranks is an astute way of extending the threat beyond WKCD who would otherwise seem - rather like Hunger Games’ President Snow- a catch all antagonist there to be evil…because they are! There is some debate as to their morals- and Patricia Clarkson makes a splendidly slippery Dr Ava Paige whose attempts to justify what she is doing as being for the greater good add much to the mix.
The overall effect is of a future world so vast and out of control that there is little these kids can do but survive best they can. Yet Thomas also has grander ambitions to overthrow WCKD and as the film reaches it’s climax, it subtly shifts gears from the horror genre to that of war. A final attack and a couple of gripping twists wrap up what is a rare example of a modern film that at over two hours passes so swiftly and has so many highlights you’ll want to see it again!