Young adult adaptations saw a spark in popularity following the release of The Hunger Games with Jennifer Lawrence. Most, sadly, failed to live up to the potential of Hunger Games and, for the most part, have been met with lacklustre reviews. The Maze Runner, however, enjoyed a limited amount of success both at the box office and with some critics.
he first one was more of a Lord of the Flies scenario, with several teenage boys deposited in a labyrinth with no memory of how they came to be. It was an intriguing prospect and one that benefited from the fact that both the viewer and you had no idea what was going on. The air of mystery that surrounded their circumstances made for an interesting watch. With The Scorch Trials, however, all that smoke and mystery is taken away. Set directly after the events of the first one, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and Alby (Aml Ameen) are rescued from The Maze and deposited in a secure facility led by Aiden Gillen. It's only short while before they realise that something's amiss in the facility and they're off out into the barren wastelands of society beyond. A convoluted story is then thrown up involving a zombie virus, a supposed cure for said zombie virus, warring factions, lots of Mad Max-esque vistas and B-list actors turning up when you least suspect them.
ylan O'Brien's performance is one of energy and growling at the camera whenever possible to give us the sense that he's damaged goods. It works somewhat, but eventually you begin to see the cracks in his performance and realise that there's not much going on anywhere. Meanwhile, Kaya Scodelario - who was quite effective in Channel 4's Skins - gives a decidedly muted performance as the not-really-love interest to Dylan O'Brien. Meanwhile, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee and Aml Ameen merely serve to ask exposition questions for whenever Dylan O'Brien isn't on-screen.
lthough the action sequences are reasonably choreographed, director Wes Ball has confused giving a story forward momentum with everyone running on screen. Really. For the entire film, the main cast of characters were stationary for about five to ten minutes. The rest of them, they were running through darkened tunnels and army bases with their lamps flailing wildly as they went. When you see it first, it gives a sense of tension and drama - but that doesn't last terribly long. There are some positives, however. The zombie creatures are more visceral and frightening than would expect for a YA adaptation and supporting adult actors Giancarlo Esposito, Barry Pepper and Patricia Clarkson turn in decent performances.
ut that's just it. It's decent. There's very little here to capture the imagination because both the story and the film itself is peppered with nods, references or outright theft from other, better stories. The running zombies are lifted from 28 Days Later. The desert, dystopian landscape is lifted from any number of films - Mad Max, Logan's Run, Oblivion. The children-as-the-cure is a little different, sure, but it's not so ingenious as to be affecting. Overall, the film is quite forgettable. The action setpieces, which serve as the core of the film, are bland enough that they don't hold your attention for very long and, unfortunately, the dramatic performances will hold it even less.