Directed by: Wes Ball
Written by: T. S. Nowlin
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Rosa Salazar, Dexter Darden, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Aidan Gillen, Barry Pepper
Runtime: 141 min
The Maze Runner franchise comes to the end with its last installment, The Death Cure. Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his fellow Gladers move towards a climactic battle against WCKD to save their friends.
They will have to break into the unknown Last City, where WCKD headquarters are located. A deadly mission that can finally put an end to all of the unanswered questions that they have since the maze.
The YA (Young-Adult) genre is long dead and buried since these films always feel cliche and they are regularly horribly written and directed. However, when The Maze Runner was released, it felt different. It had a mysterious story and surprisingly well-directed action sequences with remarkable acting and a strong lead. Sadly, the ending was awful and it ultimately wrecked the movie. The Scorch Trials had to begin where the first film failed and despite a solid first act, it lost its track midway through, only slightly recovering in the last 15 minutes.
That said, I was neither expecting the final movie of a "fine" trilogy to be mind-blowing or terrible. I went to the theater hoping to have a nice yet enjoyable end to a saga that I actually like for one reason or another. Truthfully, I enjoyed way more than I ever hoped to!
First of all, Dylan O'Brien ... Damn, this guy can act! The production had to stop due to an injury Dylan suffered while filming and that just proves how committed he is to perform his own stunts. He carries the whole franchise and he surely has a bright future in front of him. I hope he gets the chance to star in a huge blockbuster soon because he deserves it. He embodies Thomas and flawlessly leads the film, taking us through emotional moments and exciting action set pieces.
He and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Newt) share a lot of screentime together and their characters' relationship is what elevates the movie by delivering the payoff everyone wants to receive. Newt is very well-developed throughout the runtime, but the same can't be said for everyone. Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) goes back to being a mere plot device and one-third of an unnecessary love triangle with Thomas and Brenda (Rosa Salazar), something that does not even come to play out.
Every actor is pretty good in their own roles, but unfortunately, their characters are not developed enough for me to actually care about them. Brenda might be the only addition to the first film that works, but partially due to the excellent performance by Rosa. Of course, Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge is great as well as Barry Pepper as Vince. On the other side, Aidan Gillen (Janson) has to portray a very dull villain, Patricia Clarkson (Dr. Ava Paige) has a couple of character development scenes but not enough since she is supposed to be a big deal and Walton Goggins (Lawrence) is yet another plot device.
I have to give credit where credit is due: Wes Ball has his own trilogy. How many directors can say that?! His movies are not amazing or ground-breaking, but they are way better than the ones we have experienced from the YA genre. Wes confirms the marvelous eye he has for filming action because he thoroughly nails every single action scene. They are exciting, inventive and the sense of urgency and danger feels extremely real. I have never witnessed a more impeccable handling of a shaky cam and the way he elevates the third act is impressive, to say the least.
The tone and pacing could have been more well-balanced. The first act starts with an extraordinary 10 minutes train assault scene, followed by some more well-filmed action, but then it stops. The whole second act is filled with dialogues after dialogues, which abruptly ruins the movie's great pacing and it is kind of boring. I have to wait for the third act to get my heart pumping again and it all feels a bit convoluted, proving that the film is way longer than what it should be.
However, the third act compensates a lot. With all of the story's issues in mind, I was truly entertained by the last half hour. There is so much going on, there is always something in the background blowing up or getting set on fire, so the feeling of danger is almost palpable. I actually love the ending (even if it feels like The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, with several endings) for what it wants to be, it emotionally satisfied me and it is a suited end to an entertaining yet flawed trilogy.
All in all, Maze Runner: The Death Cure is undoubtedly the best installment of the franchise. Its cast continues to be the standout with terrific performances by pretty much everyone, but Dylan O'Brien is the main reason why these movies work. He is incredible and I hope he gets a chance at one of the big films in the future. Wes Ball adds his own trilogy to his filmography (he directed all three movies) and confirms his phenomenal eye for filming exciting and innovative action. However, this film is JUST able to deliver a satisfying end to a simple yet very flawed story. It contains some YA cliches and it is impossible to deny the lack of logic in storytelling. The second act's boring pacing and the third act's predictability and cheesiness might be too much for viewers to handle, but the lack of secondary characters' development is what brings the movie down for me since I couldn't care less for them.