Thursday, September 24, 2015

Out of the Glade and into the Scorch

‘Maze Runner,’ the first film in a trilogy adapted from James Dashner’s young adult (YA) post-apocalyptic novels, was a pleasant surprise (review here:  Therefore I eagerly anticipated the next installment, ‘The Scorch Trials,’ which picks up right where the first movie left off as our hapless band of young dazed maze survivors ("Gladers") find themselves hurriedly whisked away by their saviors in a helicopter out of the WCKD research facility from which they were monitored by white coated scientists as if they’re nothing more than lab rats running around in a.... maze.  To their surprise and dismay, the world outside is revealed to be a desert wasteland (the "Scorch") in stark contrast to the lush green glade from which they emerged, such that you can easily picture roving bands of lawless, homicidal marauders motoring around in dilapidated vehicles thrive in such a setting.
As in the first film, not everything is as it seems.  In the world of ‘Maze Runner,’ deception is the main currency, as Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his friends find themselves on the run once again from the evil organization WCKD led by the ruthless Ava (Patricia Clarkson) through the unforgiving landscape of the "Scorch."  As if this isn’t bad enough, the Gladers must also evade and fight off zombie-like “Cranks” and the forces of nature (abrasive sandstorms) in their arduous trek through the "Scorch" in search of ‘The Right Arm,” a group of resistance fighters who have been a thorn in WCKD’s side.
While ‘Maze Runner’ combined "Lord of the Flies" social conflict with a deep and satisfying mystery to good effect, this follow-up is a more straightforward action thriller and chase movie.  It also shares the same anti-authority/rebellion/good-versus-evil themes as other popular YA series like 'The Hunger Games' and 'Divergent.' Nonetheless, if you can manage to see 'The Scorch Trials' for the popcorn movie it strives to be, you will find it to be an enjoyable enough diversion.
Grade: B+
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