Courtney Accocella ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Assistant Web Editor
The main fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner trilogy may find the newly released second installment of the film adaptation, The Scorch Trials, to not live up to expectations. The first film made a real stand last year in the teen dystopian drama genre with an interestingly unique, yet highly vague concept. It was a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel except for dropping a few key elements. It seems that screenwriter T.S. Nowlin decided to take more liberties with this follow up.
Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien, is asserting his position of the motley crew of Gladers as they realize they have yet to escape the clutches of WICKED, the World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department, when they escaped the confines of the maze. They choose to run headfirst into the aired urban wasteland of the Scorch, with all of the zombie-like creatures hidden in its sand filled terrain, in search of a rumored rebellion group: the right arm. While the major plot points of the novel remain, the story has drastically changed from the book. While these changes would initially be welcomed, as the novel was mediocre at best and changes to the haphazard story could make vast improvements, this divergence is just a different version of the same story, but with the same plot holes in different places. The adaptation is equally convoluted, poorly written, and overall as dry as the terrain on screen. One of the major issues of the film is in the length alone. With a two hour run time it’s frequently dragging. The film reads as a series of chase scenes poorly strung together with repetitive shots abound. The film also lacks suspense as our heroes are constantly saved just in the nick of time at every possible turn. The stakes are rarely high as a result. This ruins an intended dramatic finale as the audience is so assured of the safety of the core crew. Take out a half dozen chases and anticlimactic scenes and it would eliminate a solid forty-five minutes from the film.
Another divergence from the novel that became a major annoyance came in the repetition of one four lettered word. S**t. There should be a counter in the lower right hand corner for the number of times a character spouts it out. Newt, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, might as well make it his catchphrase. It’s one of the most obvious signs of the lazy dialogue seen in the film. The main irritation was the idea that within hours of exiting the maze, where Gladers only used made up expletives of Klunk and Slinthead, they quickly added this four letter word and “hell” to their vocabulary. May be a minor detail, but it did take away from the ethos surrounding the maze and the culture they developed.
The dialogue problems are clear as well for both Thomas and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario). Teresa has about a half dozen lines in the film and moves through it like a quiet ghost. Thomas has similar issues as he exhibits next to no emotion when delivering sporadic statements. O’Brien has demonstrated his abilities more frequently in The Internship than in this film as he portrayed the character almost constantly stoic with one instance of sadness. It would be wonderful to see O’Brien show his chops and bring more to the character that the writing most certainly is not. The speech Thomas delivers at the finale becomes almost ironic as a rebel Vince (Barry Pepper) claims the blandly delivered two lines as an inspirational address.
However, Minho and Newt have come into their own as stand alone characters and bring energy back to the films plot. For all it’s faults The Scorch Trials does one thing well, that being fan service. Take for example a mere ten or so minutes into the film. An unwarranted and seemingly random scene of O’Brien showering takes the screen. Two and a half minutes of silence, brooding profile, bicep, and an odd leg shot. It’s clear directer Wes Ball has a pretty good idea of who composes the franchises audience. Fans will also enjoy the increased elements of horror in developing the zombie-like Cranks; maybe the added true fight scene will expand the films audience beyond a plethora of O’Brien fans.
One can only hope that The Death Cure, and its inevitable part one and two, bring more life to these characters and continue to make daring changes to the story while clarifying the expansive backstory of plot holes.
Overall Grade: C
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