By: Kevin Jordan
Forget the book.
In the year that has passed since The Maze Runner was released in theaters, I’ve read a lot of books, including all four in The Maze Runner series. I’ve also read all five Game of Thrones books in that time (yes, I know they’re actually called A Song of Ice and Fire), but that’s a conversation for another day. Though, it is a fun coincidence that two GoT actors feature in The Scorch Trials (Littlefinger – Aidan Gillen; Jojen – Thomas Brodie-Sangster). The reason I bring up GoT is because one of the big complaints from some of the GoT book fanatics is that the show diverges too much from the books (they’re wrong). Well, if they think that’s bad, they should burst into flames at how much The Scorch Trials film diverged from its source material. As a friend and I agreed – the characters’ names were the same and there was, in fact, a scorch.
The Scorch Trials picks up right where the previous film left off – Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his friends have escaped the maze and are taken by helicopter to a distant compound. As they are exiting the helicopter, they are attacked by what appear to be fast zombies and are rushed into the compound. Inside, they find hot showers, good food, fresh clothes, and dozens of other young men and women from other mazes, and all of this run by a man named Janson (Gillen). Right away, that’s two things different from the book – fast zombies and lots of other maze people. So, if you were hoping for the film to at least start out like the book, you will be sorely disappointed.
After a couple of days at the compound, Thomas starts to get angry because they won’t let him see Teresa (Kaya Scodelario). When another boy shows Thomas a room where other maze folk are taken (they go in, but never come out), Thomas decides to break into the room to find out what’s really going on. Once in the room, we discover that this movie has ripped off The Island – Thomas discovers that instead of taking people to the safe sanctuary Janson promised, they have put them into comas and are draining a blue fluid from them that can cure the zombie disease (called The Flare). Also, they are the same organization responsible for putting them in the maze. At this point, the movie is so far away from the book that it’s not even worth mentioning anymore.
Well, actually there is one thing worth mentioning and then I swear I’ll stop. In the first movie and book, the maze is considered the first phase of tests they are running to discover a cure. The reason the second book has the word “trials” in its title is because it’s the second phase of the testing. But in the second film, they’ve completely written that out. Instead, the second film is Janson and company trying to recapture Thomas and gang (the original maze group) as they cross the desolate landscape outside of the compound. Guess what they call that landscape?
The rest of the movie is pretty generic action movie fare. The group runs into several hurdles, there’s shooting, there’s chasing, there are fast zombies trying to eat them, all while they are trying to make contact with a resistance group called “the right hand.” There isn’t much else to talk about, though I do have two observations I want to share. The first is that there is a shot of a bridge that looks like the Brooklyn Bridge and they are in a city that is definitely large. Yet, after a short walk, they are heading into some rocky mountains that are clearly taller than anything east of the Mississippi River. Either the filmmakers weren’t very concerned with location or the solar flares that caused the apocalypse were so powerful they made mountains rise up several thousand feet. This isn’t important, just something I noticed.
The second thing is that there was a very impressive bit of acting in a scene halfway through the movie. Thomas and a new girl they met in the city, Brenda (Rosa Salazar), are looking for some help at a place that can only be described as a rave. Alan Tudyk (who is as delightful as ever) runs the party, gives them something to drink, and the rest of the scene plays out with Thomas and Brenda quickly becoming fall-down drunk while searching for the man they need help from. Salazar and O’Brien do a fantastic job of convincing the viewer they really are drunk, then share one of the most passionate kisses I’ve ever seen in a film. It’s the kind of kiss that every Twilight movie was missing. Come to think of it, it was missing from The Scorch Trials book as well.
Rating: Ask for two dollars back if you haven’t read the book. If you are the kind of person that hates when movies/shows diverge from the book, you probably shouldn’t go to movies ever again.