Directed by: Wes Ball
Written by: T. S. Nowlin
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Barry Pepper, Lili Taylor, Patricia Clarkson
Runtime: 120 min
Wes Ball continues as the director of the Maze Runner franchise and counts with T. S. Nowlin to help him with the book-to-movie adaptation of The Scorch Trials.
The second installment picks up right where the first one ended. Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his fellow Gladers keep searching for clues about the real purpose of WCKD while teaming up with a resistance group of survivors in the middle of the Scorch, a destroyed landscape with virus-infected humans.
The Scorch Trials had a tough task to start its story considering that the ending of the first film is pure nonsense and the reason why I almost did not rate it positively. However, The Maze Runner has several points in its favor and I felt entertained throughout the movie until the last 15 minutes. With this in mind, the first half of this film surprised me a lot!
The Scorch Trials starts off strong and it does not take long for the Gladers to become aware of their "situation" and to synchronize with the viewers' knowledge. Thankfully, the stupid ending of the first movie does not spread for too long either and Wes Ball entertained the hell out of me for one hour-ish (the other hour is when the problems start to arise and develop). He has an outstanding eye for action, there are some amazing chasing sequences that honestly left me jaw-dropped. They are riveting, tense and the camera work is incredible, even the shaky cam is very well-handled.
The cinematography transforms the visual quality of this film, even though it lost its claustrophobic atmosphere that I loved in the first movie. Still, it is a damn good looking film with great editing and an excellent score. This time around, the ending at least makes sense and it effectively finishes the movie, instead of completely destroying its story like in the previous one.
One of the exceptional features of the first movie is the cast and everyone that keeps portraying their roles in this one becomes even better. Dylan O'Brien is astonishing once again. I mean, this guy is extraordinary, he has a great range of expressions and he easily connects with the audience. Thomas is also the most important piece of the trilogy since everything is based on him, what he did and what he means for the future of the world, so it is a perfect match between actor and character.
Kaya Scodelario plays a more active Teresa and she definitely raises the story. Her character is basically a plot device in the first film, but now she is well-developed and she actually has something to do. Teresa's path throughout the movie follows an interesting progression and there are a few cool twists along the way, even if they are a bit predictable.
Ki Hong Lee (Minho) and Thomas Sangster (Newt) also have neat performances, but here is where the film starts to crumble. There are a lot of new characters introduced in this movie and some of them are actually portrayed by well-known actors. For example, Aidan Gillen (Janson) and Giancarlo Esposito (Jorge), from the famous Game Of Thrones and Breaking Bad. With so many talents added to the cast, it is a pity that their characters are not developed at all ...
The second half of the film entirely changes the movie and it turns into something I've seen a thousand times in action films. It lost its originality and mystery that it possessed, it stopped looking like an intriguing story. It is literally based on running from point A to B with big action scenes in exchange for character development. There is never a sense of urgency until the last 15 minutes and since the characters just appear from nowhere, I can't care for any of them. The new characters who I enjoyed watching, I did due to the actors portraying them, not because the characters were great.
Consequently, the movie's tone and pacing are deeply affected. The balance between action and story-development is not adjusted at all, the movie goes from one running scene to another with barely any storytelling in between. It is entertaining for the first 45 minutes or so, but the second act slows down and it holds too many cliche sequences for me to tolerate.
All in all, The Scorch Trials starts off great, with some amazing chasing scenes and phenomenal direction from Wes Ball. The nonsense ending from the first film is quickly put aside in the first act and the original cast improve on their already excellent performances from the first movie, especially Dylan O'Brien. Technically great in regards to cinematography, editing and score, but very disappointing story-wise. The second half feels like a cliche action movie with rarely decent storytelling, consequently breaking its pacing and tone. Some new characters should have added something more to the story, but they end up not being developed at all and The Maze Runner franchise wastes its potential once again.