Sep 152015
Title: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Director: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O’Brien,
Kaya Scodelario,
Thomas Brodie-Sangster,
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 2 Hours 11 mins
Music: John Paesano
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Certificate: US: PG-13
UK: 12A
Release Date: US: Sep 18 2015
UK: Sep 11 2015
See If You Like:  Maze Runner,
The Hunger Games

2014’s The Maze Runner was a refreshingly dark take on the dystopian narrative. The theme has been getting a hammering at the cinema recently, and continues to do. Fortunately, returning director Wes Ball has created an action movie for the younger generation that is full of well-developed characters, kinetic action sequences and incredible imagery. And zombies.

The Scorch Trials, picking up where the first film left off, follows the Gladers as they have been rescued from their maze prison and are being taken to a supposed salvation. The group’s leader Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, Teen Wolf) thinks there’s something fishy going on the compound; every day the head honcho Janson (Aiden Gillen, Game Of Thrones) appears to call out a list of names. Those kids are never seen from again. When Thomas and Aris (Jacob Lofland, Mud) sneak through security and find something horrific, they realise there is something forbidding hidden behind the apparent sanctuary. The Gladers escape from their holdings and now must face the harsh environment of the land outside, known as ‘The Scorch’. They look to find The Right Arm, a WCKD resistance group that they’ve been told are hiding in the mountains.

Scorch Trials feels like a completely different movie from its predecessor. Whereas The Maze Runner focused more on the imposing confines of the maze and how the characters must learn to live in a small environment they can’t escape, The Scorch Trials finds them out in the barren wilderness where they have no idea what to expect. This makes for some dazzling imagery and some impressive action scenes. The world has been destroyed by a solar flare, with most of the population becoming afflicted with a disease that turns them into zombie-like creatures.  They run, act, and behave in a way that is similar to the mutants in I Am Legend, and although they are computer-generated, they are actually quite scary. Director Wes Ball creates nail-bitingly tense scenes which could rival any horror film I’ve seen in a long time.

In the same way that Mad Max: Fury Road centred around one long chase scene, Scorch Trials’ entire narrative follows the characters as they always seem to be running from something. W.C.K.D. agents. Cranks. Sandstorms. The suspense is constant, and Ball has created a rich and striking world for it to all take place in. The film does hit a few lulls along the way though, as you can expect from any young adult film. Despite the story smartly avoiding any romantic sappiness that also threatened to plague its predecessor, Ball eventually has to give in to the usual tropes and provide some clunky dialogue between Thomas and his lass Teresa (Kaya Scodelario, Skins). But even this is done to create a kind of gripping tension that is unheard of in this overcrowded genre. Everything from the action to the characters to the atmosphere, feels professional and passionate; not simply made to appease the YA-fluff junkies.

Also helping to make the film feel decidedly more grown-up than its contemporaries is its use of music. John Paesano uses a scratchy ’80s style orchestra to elevate the tension in its more frightening scenes, while infusing the breathless action sequences with an invigorating soundtrack. Look out for a scene towards the end that uses an electronic score and dizzy camera effects to make one of the most evocatively strange sequences I’ve seen in a film like this, again cementing Scorch Trials as a film that towers above most others in its genre.


The actors are all fantastic, with Dylan O’Brien proving he’s a bonafide young action star that can play empathetic characters, and isn’t just a pretty face made for rom-coms. Supporting lads Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee provide a genuine camaraderie between the characters, with Hong Lee in particular called upon to show off his darker side in some surprisingly sinister scenes. The rest of the cast fills out nicely, although most supporting characters are thrust aside to make way for the meat of the story.

There are elements of any young-adult film that are just inescapable, but Wes Ball has done his best to sidestep them and make a film that is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. It isn’t quite the breath of fresh air that The Maze Runner proved to be, but Scorch Trials is impressively deep, dark, terrifying, and is one of the most purely entertaining films of the year so far.

Ayden Walker @walkaydenwalk.

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