BY ROGER THOMAS
I was not a huge fan of “The Maze Runner.” When I reviewed the film last year I was not flattering.
Here are two quotes from that review: “First, there is not a lot of logic in much of what happens on screen.” and “If there is going to be another film, I hope the next one improves upon this first attempt.”
Needless to say, I wanted more from this teenage action/sci-fi adventure.
Now we have “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.” Allow me to begin with a praise: this sequel is better than the first. The first film was confined to the center of the maze and the attempts to escape it. This sequel does present a much larger landscape of this apocalyptic world.
However, the problem of the first film continues in the second. In both cases, I felt like I was not getting enough answers of what is truly going on. I recognize the desire of the filmmakers, and the author of the books upon which the films are based, that the story is expansive and filled with mystery. I just think offering a little more clarity would not hurt the series.
And there are other issues I had with the film. First, as I said above, the screenplay is eager to keep all the revelations small. However, when the film is revealing next to nothing, it makes it hard to understand and creates a lack of emotion for what is happening on screen.
Then there is the revelation that one of the threats of this world is “zombies.” The film does not use that word but then again neither does “The Walking Dead.” (In that television series the undead are most often called “walkers.”) I, for one, did not need to see another story where former humans seek to feed on those who are still living.
The best scene in the film, at least the best action sequence, is ultimately a rip-off from a better film. About halfway through “Scorch Trials,” there is a moment when a young woman is standing on a piece of glass which is slowly cracking. One of the zombie creatures is trying to get to her. This scene is lifted almost exactly from “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” All the filmmakers did was substitute a dinosaur with a zombie.
There were many low points in the film, but the lowest happens two-thirds into the film. Two of the leading teenagers are seeking someone and are told the person they seek is in an establishment. In order to gain entrance, the two teens have to drink a mystery liquid. Once inside the “club” they act intoxicated and the whole club atmosphere seems inappropriate for a film based on a teen book series. That scene, whether it exists in the source material or not, should have been left out of the film.
Then there is the climax of the film. I do not want to give too much away.
I would offer this one question: If the villains have such wonderful weapons such as the flying vehicles they use at the end of the film, why have they not achieved their goal sooner? Perhaps they are planning to explain that in “Part 3.”
I will offer a few slight praises. There is talent among the young cast members, especially from Dylan O’Brien (“Teen Wolf” series and “The Internship”) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (“Love Actually” “Game of Thrones” series and “Wolf Hall.”) The special effects continue to shine as they did in the previous film. The sequel also presents some new diverse characters that will perhaps lead the viewers to the answers we seek.
If you liked the first film, my bet is this one will also appeal. If you felt slighted by the first, you will feel less so here, but it still does not quite satisfy. The book series includes one more sequel and a prequel.
Perhaps by the end all will be clear and satisfying.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.