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Film Review: “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”

Rating: B+

The second film adaptation of James Dashner’s young adult fiction trilogy “The Maze Runner” brings to light the continuing struggle of the “Gladers” and their effort to bring down the infamous World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department (WCKD). Chock-full of action and rage, makers of “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” seriously step up their game for this hotly anticipated feature.

Returning to his role as Thomas and leading the cause against WCKD is actor Dylan O’Brien, who provides his character with the utmost degree of vexation and brilliance. Although not assigned to be just like the former Thomas of “The Maze Runner,” O’Brien’s reinvented presentation of the character completely separates himself from his lack of success in the first film. The regular “Glader” actors return to give notable accompanying performances in their roles, including Thomas Brodie-Sangster as the astute Newt and Kaya Scodelario as the shady but captivating Theresa.

Where the casting director greatly succeeds is with the selection of veteran actors Giancarlo Esposito and Barry Pepper. Esposito, famous for his critically-acclaimed role as notorious methamphetamine distributor Gus Fring in the hit AMC television series, “Breaking Bad,” takes up the role of Jorge and leads all others in character development, an essential element that this movie severely lacks overall. Pepper is popular for starring in the epic wartime drama “Saving Private Ryan” and in the film adaptation of famous University of Maine alumnus Stephen King’s novel, “The Green Mile.” Although his character, Vince, has a short amount of screen time, he dumps loads of color into his on-screen personality and estranged nature.

“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” embraces the essence of a middle movie in a feature trilogy by taking the first installment and tying it into the finale, but fails to separate itself as an integral part of the series. There is hardly any identifiable beginning to the story and the ending is foreseeable.

Even movies that are classified as “action,” “thriller” or “adventure” must have a balance between active scenes and dramatic ones that provide clarity or background to specific characters or the general story. Director Wes Ball gets caught up in dragging along periods of violence and then diving into another conflict, whether it be with nemesis WCKD or with the infected humans known as “Cranks.” Potential viewers should consider bringing a flashlight to the cinema since many of the scenes take place in dark, perilous locations.

Contrary to the lack of storyline and development, the film does flourish when it comes to its heart-racing intensity. Its young cast, stunt coordination and direction fully embrace the determination to save the human race and put an end to WCKD’s operations. Equally, the enemy is as bad as can be and obviously slips-up when it tries to be cocky. A more notable villainous actor would have been more appropriate; Aidan Gillen, as WCKD’s figurehead Janson, does not grant his character enough wickedness.

Sifting out the violence and narrow escapes, the film is left with a trivial storyline and next-to-no development of new or current characters. Inevitably, the lack of these elements is covered up by the rush of adrenaline, and that is why “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” is not a smash hit.

If the trend continues, the third and final installment, titled “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” should leave a lasting legacy for this dystopian motion picture adaptation. For now, viewers can marvel at the performance of this lively young cast as they conquer the sands and heat of a ruined Earth.

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