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Dan's Review: "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" marks the end of a film trend

Jan 25, 2018 07:20PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Dylan O'Brien, Giancarlo Esposito, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, and Rosa Salazar in Maze Runner: The Death Cure - © 2018 20th Century Fox

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (20th Century Fox)

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and some thematic elements.

Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Walton Goggins, Ki Hong Lee, Jacob Lofland, Barry Pepper, Will Poulter, Rosa Salazar, Patricia Clarkson.

Written by T.S. Nowlin, based on "The Death Cure" by James Dashner.

Directed by Wes Ball.

GRADE: B-

REVIEW:

Okay, are we done with all the young adult novel-based film trilogies? Please? Alright, one more to put the nail in the coffin of this worn-out trend as we get the finale to James Dashner’s Maze Runner novel series. The trend might have ended sooner if not for an unfortunate head wound suffered by the Maze Runner star Dylan O’Brien (production on the third installment halted after O’Brien suffered a serious on-set injury in 2016). With a gap of two years between the middle and final films, interest has waned – not only in The Maze Runner, but in YA-novel-based films as a whole. The fervor that began with the Twilight series and peaked with the Hunger Games is now tepid at best, if not dead altogether. It got so bad for the Divergent series that the studios just skipped the ending. So, Maze Runner: The Death Cure may very well represent the final punctuation mark on a film movement that suffered from all-too-familiar themes, and certain oversaturation.

A fully-recovered O’Brien returns as Thomas, a young man with an immunity to a world-ending virus caused by some sort of solar flare. He and other maze runners have previously escaped from the clutches of WCKD, the last-remaining corporate authority in the dystopian future. In the Scorch Trials, Thomas and his pals had just joined a WCKD resistance group in the desert, only to be betrayed by Teresa (Kaya Scoledario), Thomas’ girlfriend and a WCKD mole sent into the maze to find a cure. After WCKD’s brutal security chief Janson (Aidan Gillen) took Thomas’ pal Minho (Ki Hong Lee) into custody, the resistance group, led by Vince (Barry Pepper) sets out to rescue him from a train headed to a big city controlled by WCKD. Their efforts are unsuccessful, but they discover the path to the city, which is surrounded by a huge wall to keep the zombies out. Thomas, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden), Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar) set out to infiltrate the city, rescue Minho and escape with the resistance on a ship. When they get there, they discover Teresa inside the WCKD lab, still trying to come up with a cure for the virus. They also discover another group of infected resistance fighters outside the city, led by Lawrence (Walter Goggins) who is plotting to blow it up. They also encounter their old maze antagonist Gally (Will Poulter), who did not die as they thought in the first film. Gally has also seen the error of his ways and vows to help his former rivals in their quest. Thomas and his group capture Teresa and force her to get them inside the WCKD lab, where it is discovered that Thomas’ blood carries the cure for the virus. As Teresa works on the vaccine, Janson closes in and Lawrence’s army attacks, setting up a large battle in a race against time.  

The good news for Maze Runner: The Death Cure is that it isn’t the worst YA-novel film adaptation of the genre, and certainly better that the other films in the Maze Runner series. The action and performances keep the bloated story moving along enough to pique your interest, even if you can see the obvious conclusion coming well before the end credits roll. There are plenty of convenient story mechanisms that assist our heroes at just the right time, giving the movie a little less credibility, but no more than you’d see in other science fiction tales. The special effects and stunts (that didn’t maim the actors) are intense and enjoyable at times.

It’s unfortunate that the Maze Runner: The Death Cure’s release was delayed so long, but perhaps that wait will help people like me forget the morass of other similar films. Even so, getting the final curtain call on a such film trend may be a dubious honor.     


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