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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt, inspired by this month’s halfway point, is to write a poem incorporating doubles. Thus, I chose to write in couplets and picked a sequel to review.)

 

Run, run, run, through glade and through maze;
Run and trust not this new world set ablaze.

Run from the torchbearers firm in their cause,
So sure of its virtues, no thought for its flaws.

Run from the dangers that line every path;
The world is less suited to kindness than wrath.

Run from the greedy, who serve themselves first,
And those who do wrong, by good reasons coerced.

Run till you realize your flight is in vain;
When all the world’s crazy, you stand and be sane.
____________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

I very much enjoyed the first Maze Runner film and was looking forward to continuing the intriguing mystery set before the characters. It was a darker installment in the YA dystopian genre and a bit more intense than others of its ilk. The Scorch Trials both strengthens and weakens the series, which is to say it both entertained and disappointed me, which is to say it’s good but could have been better, which is to say . . . oh, I’ll just explain.

After escaping from the maze, Thomas and his Glade buddies are whisked away to a locked-down compound where they find other rescued inhabitants from other mazes and a great many secrets. One common complaint about the first film is the lack of answers, and The Scorch Trials does supply some, such as why the young people are so important and why Thomas joined the Gladers. We still don’t know what exactly the Maze was for, but there’s still another film yet to come. While the first film was almost completely confined, this one has a much wider scope as Thomas and the gang are introduced to the scorched wasteland and a zombie-like plague that has caused a breakdown in society.

I wasn’t expecting this to turn into a zombie apocalypse movie since we’ve had even more of those than YA dystopias, but it works quite well. In lieu of the first film’s Grievers, those infected with the Flare virus offer the same awesome, edge-of-your-seat action and lots and lots of running. A key part of zombie scenarios is how people deal with them, and the film includes a believable variety of responses, from ruthless science to mercenary self-interest. One reason I avoid zombie movies is my aversion to gore, and I did appreciate this film’s restraint, proving (like World War Z) that it can be done effectively.

Sadly, with so much eventfulness, the characters are little more than placeholders. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is the leader making things up as he goes along, and he connects with a couple new characters, but everyone from the first film is just following along. This film so relies on the first one to establish its “main” characters that my VC didn’t even remember one of the expendables along for the ride.

Another gripe is that The Maze Runner was fascinatingly original while this one seems content to borrow plot elements and even specific scenes from other sources. Watching the film, I kept pointing out what such-and-such reminded me of. The zombie setup and search for a cure brought to mind I Am Legend and World War Z. Zombies in a mall seemed like a Dawn of the Dead reference. Oh, that scene is like the beginning of Mad Max: Fury Road. Oh, that’s like Coma, and Aliens, and The Way Back, and Fallout, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. When a film constantly brings other franchises to mind, more than its originality suffers.

Thus, The Scorch Trials furthers the plot and little else, but that’s luckily still enough to keep me interested and entertained. The stage is set for the final chapter, and I’m glad the characters have something to run toward instead of always away. Time will tell if this trilogy can end on the high note with which it began.

Best line: (Thomas, at a pivotal scene) “I’m tired of running.”

 

Rank: List-Worthy (joining the first film)

 

© 2016 S. G. Liput

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