This article contains spoilers if you haven’t read James Dashner’s series.
Being across the pond has some advantages. One of them being that I got to catch the second installment in The Maze Runner movie franchise, Scorch Trials, which is set to be one of the hottest films this fall and doesn’t premiere in the US until September 18th.
For those who aren’t familiar with the world of trials in scorches and running mazes, The Maze Runner is a sci-fi dystopian trilogy based on the popular YA books by James Dashner.
Scorch Trials picks up where The Maze Runner left off. After surviving the maze, Thomas and his agile friends have been whisked away by helicopter to a compound out in the middle of nowhere. Aidan Gillen, a.k.a Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish from Game of Thrones, appears as Janson – a character who is every bit a smarmy slime-ball as his Thrones counterpart. Janson promises them safety. However, how can we possibly trust the scheme-iest liar in all of Westeroes? And why are the teenagers being given medical tests? Wait…what are they doing with Teresa? Hm…something’s not quite right!
It seems we’re not the only ones who are suspicious as Thomas begins to get paranoid at all the secrecy. An unlikely meeting in the night sees him team up with Aris, another survivor of WCKD’s maze trials, and what they discover in their midnight excursions proves his doubts.
The Maze Runner set up the story, but the Scorch Trials is where the action really begins. On the run from WCKD, Thomas and Co find themselves trying to survive in the barren wasteland that Earth has become, otherwise known as the Scorch.
Freak weather isn’t the only thing that the Scorch squad find themselves up against. Thomas, Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Aris (Jacob Lofland), Newt (Thomas Sangster), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Winston (Alexander Flores) find themselves face to face battling with the most terrifying villain yet. You thought the Grievers were bad? Wait until you meet the Cranks.
For those who haven’t read the book, Crank is a term for anyone who has been infected by the Flare virus and has begun or fully lost their sanity. The Cranks are horrifying both on page and screen and while they don’t belt out infamous novel one-liners like “Rose took my nose, I suppose” they’re equally as frightening. The Walking Dead-esque creatures steal every scene that they are in and will have you cowering in your seat.
What sets Scorch Trials apart from its predecessor is that we have more fast paced fighting sequences amongst all the humour and heart-wrenching scenes.
In their quest to find anti-WCKD resistance group the Right Arm, Thomas is joined by his new-found Scorch friends, Jorge and Brenda. Played by Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) and Rosa Salazar, (Parenthood, American Horror Story) Jorge and Brenda are two new additions that I absolutely loved. The father-daughter dynamic between the duo was spot on and both actors brought the characters to life. In one scene, Jorge and Brenda’s hideout is raided by WCKD who are on the hunt for Thomas and his pals, Jorge plays the entirety of Patsy Cline’s ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’ during a firefight that ends in the building being destroyed once the song finishes. In another we see Brenda and Thomas get close at a decadent post-apocalyptic rave after taking a swig of some sort of hallucinogen. Long story short, these two characters are part of some of the most entertaining scenes in Scorch Trials and you’re sure to love them.
Within the action packed 131 minutes, we do get some answers as to why WCKD so desperately wants these teenagers. After discovering they weren’t the only maze, Thomas meets the rest of Aris’ maze otherwise known as Group B. With a minor appearance from yet another Thrones alum, Nathalie Emmanuel, we get a lengthy face off between the Gladers, The Right Arm and WCKD.
Outnumbered and out-weaponed, the Gladers are left defeated and reeling from the betrayal of Teresa who sold them out to the bad guys. With Minho now in WCKD’s clutches, Thomas has no choice but to go back to the enemy’s headquarters to save their friend and finally put an end to WCKD’s schemes.
Scorch Trials makes the previous Maze Runner film look incredibly mediocre. Wes Ball’s directing has been a delight to watch throughout both films, but he really did up his game for the Scorch. There’s one poignant and beautifully done scene where the Gladers are forced to abandon their friend Winston who has contracted the Flare after being attack by a Crank. As they’re walking away in the distance we hear the sound of a gunshot ceasing them in their tracks.
The new characters fit right in the Maze Runner family. Jorge and Brenda are instant badass favourites that you root for and Aiden Gillen does an eerily flawless job as Janson who I despised in the novels. I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait to see more of Janson!
The Death Cure is set for a 2017 release to conclude the franchise and I’m eager to see Thomas and his friends take down WCKD once and for all.
Are you #ReadyforScorch?
Maze Runner: Scorch Trials is out in UK cinemas now. For the US, it is released on September 18th.