Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials review – picking up the pace for a worthy sequel

Oh dear oh dear. They’re just not very happy are they? Like in the poster, trailer and every other visual piece of evidence we have, the youngsters in Maze Runner: Scorch Trialsspend the film frowning. Looking very pretty while doing so, but frowning. And I guess they have good enough reasons.

After escaping the mysterious and fatal maze in the first installment, they arrive in a twisted dystopian sanctuary where they are promised a new life away from the dangers they faced until now. They will now be safe, they are told. Except, if that was true, we wouldn’t have a film, would we? Thomas and his friends spend the film trying to get to the bottom of this fishy business by breaking free and going out in search of some real answers in the big bad world.

So before we delve into the deep analysis of Scorch Trials, let’s take a second to look back to what the first installment gave us (review here) – Impressive visuals, good-looking actors, and an entertaining storyline. Well, if we’re going off that then we can definitely say that Scorch Trials does an adequate job of providing a sequel: it features the same elements, builds on the first film’s strengths and picks up the pace, making the tension rise and meaning that the wait for the final third is that bit more exciting.

The visuals are definitely remarkable and seem to have been thought out with great care, as opposed to a lot of other young adult action films. This genre is used to focusing on crisp shots and high definition action scenes, but generally lacks creativity. Here, every other shot seems to have Facebook cover photos and desktop backgrounds in mind, with the photographic-like artistic flair of a lot of the stills.

The production design is remarkable, taking the two-dimensional narrative from the novels and truly bringing it to life in an exciting and awe-inspiring fashion. I’m thinking of the desert scene, which really pushes boundaries and rivals cinematography of the likes of the Coen Brothers or even classic Westerns. What’s so impressive is not only the high standard of these aesthetically pleasing features but also the wide spectrum of places and styles – From bare deserts to rocky mountains and heaving hallucinogenic house parties, Scorch Trials is a true visual delight.

Moving on to the good-looking actors. Well. I am of the school of thought that sees beauty like wine, which only improves with age. Dylan O’Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, to you I say well done. Not only are they looking more than suitable for the job, but they have both most definitely upped their acting game since the first film. They both seem to have a lot more emotional nuances and come across as actual pillars of the story and strong integral elements of the film, as opposed to pretty pawns. It’s a shame about Teresa and her wishy-washy personality and poor dialog, but we can’t have it all can we – there’s still dessert to come with the third film.

And the storyline. Let’s all sit down now. I saw, enjoyed and wrote about the first film, and therefore did not think to look at a brief recap before going to see part 2. Rooky error. Like the other strong elements of the Maze Runner, the narrative has been boosted tenfold and the storyline isn’t so much contained in a book of which its pages are turned slowly and gradually. It’s more like a scroll being unrolled all at once which just keeps going, and going, and going… It’s exhausting.

On the bright side there is no time to feel like you know the film too well and pretend your social media accounts are more interesting while watching the film – because if you do, you might miss the gang being chased by zombies, crushed by a building, or running through a lightning storm… Scorch Trials is definitely high paced and can boast providing non-stop action and entertainment. But was it all a bit too much?

Some may argue that so much high-stake action loses its value and when used in abundance may become farcical. However, due to the nature of this trilogy and the current competition in dystopian young adult films, I feel that it’s not a bad thing to try and stand out. They’re all reaching their peak and so if Scorch Trials decides that it’ll set itself apart by providing every kind of shot it can, more levels of danger than Super Mario Bros and increasingly attractive and talented leads, so be it.

The Maze Runner continues to be shaped in the same mould giving birth to the likes of Hunger Games and Divergent– so if that’s not up your street, don’t waste your time. However, for the fans of the bravery and beauty of this saga and its comrades, it can only get better. Onwards and upwards.

★★★★☆

Originally published on Epigram

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