Movie Review:Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Over and out.

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Maze Runner
Twentieth Century Fox

I missed the second Maze Runner movie because of a scheduling conflict – and, I must admit, because I had seen the first one. Released in 2014, the original Maze Runner, which cleaned up at the box office, nevertheless seemed a feeble entry in the waning teen-dystopia craze. (How many remember The Giver, also 2014, or the previous year's Ender's Game?). So I missed and then willfully skipped the second film—The Scorch Trials, it was called—and now, checking back in for The Death Cure, the concluding installment of this franchise, I discover that the story has taken a hard left turn into an action-crazed Mad Max universe, with a pit stop in Blade Runner-ville.

Maybe director Wes Ball – whose feature-film résumé consists entirely of Maze Runner movies—just said what the hell and decided to expend his biggest budget yet on demonstrating how much he'd learned helming the series. He's learned quite a bit. Death Cure opens in the midst of a howling train chase across a vast desert. The train contains a payload of disconsolate youths in chains on their way to someplace unpleasant operated by the evil org called WCKD. Banging along behind the train are two vehicles containing familiar faces, among them series protagonist Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his pals Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden)—all survivors of the Glade, the mysterious monster farm introduced in the first film – and rebel warrior Brenda (Rosa Salazar). The practical stunt work here—real people leaping around on real conveyances at high speed and considerable danger to life and limb (O'Brien was seriously injured while shooting this movie) —may not be up to the standards of genre god George Miller, but they do call him to mind.

Thomas and company manage to rescue some of the captured kids, but not their Glade buddy Minho (Ki Hong Lee), soon to become a subject of gruesome experimentation in the Last City, a walled CGI fantasyland that serves as WCKD headquarters. There, bent scientists Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) and sneer-master Janson (Aidan Gillen)—aided by Thomas's sorta love interest, the ethically ambiguous Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) —are seeking a cure for the deadly plague that has reduced most of the world to digital wrack and ruin. And it looks like this cure, not surprisingly, will require the blood of young Glade survivors, who are immune to the pestilence.

This is a serviceable story, and there are nifty touches along the way: some set-piece helicopter action, a snarling tunnel attack by a crowd of zombified "Cranks." But there is also endless running and hiding and running and fighting and running and running. And just when you're getting annoyed by the movie's dragging on so long (on its way to a nearly two and a half hour runtime), director Ball wheels in a battered character named Lawrence (Walton Goggins), whose only function is to inflate the movie's already over-generous runtime with his babblings about rebellion and whatnot.

By now the weary viewer is gasping for a wrapup. But no: there's also a big smashy-crashy fight in a laboratory that I thought would never, ever end. The only reason it did, I suspect, is because the director finally ran out of budget.

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  1. Yes I remember The Giver and thought it was terrific – I watched it twice! I remember thinking, how can anyone watch this movie and think coerced drug therapy was a good idea (at the time they were talking about it for drug addiction among other social ills, and still are). Also enforced/imposed equality. My question is whether these kinds of movies program kids to make them think this is inevitable so start getting used to it, or if they inoculate them to the propaganda so that they can see the changes and thereby resist them. I think the latter. Go humans!!

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  2. This review brought to you by WCKD Action News

  3. I guess the Hollywood strategy is to make as many movies as possible – good or bad, just to keep actors busy. The good movies subsidize the bad movies that don’t turn a profit.

    1. Netflix shows too.

    2. Everything Nick Cage has done in the last fifteen years…

      1. During the period when he was actually being selective about roles, Nic Cage somehow didn’t get around to paying his taxes, and got into some trouble with Uncle Sugar. As a result, he basically has to act in everything that comes his way so as not to get Snipes’d.

        1. I seem to recall that his net worth went from $150 million to a measly $25 million since his last good movie. Pobrecito.

          1. It doesn’t help that he can’t seem to stop buying castles and T. rex skulls and whatnot.

            1. Other than that, though, he is so like us.

  4. Protip for directors: if Walton Goggins can’t save your movie, consider a different line of work.

  5. The reviewer admits ignorance and tries to give me his uninformed opinion. No, sir. Those of us who are Maze Runner devotees (“mazeheads” we call ourselves) will have none of it.

  6. Ender’s Game was fantastic, you jerkstore! I was sure there was no way in hell they could make a passable Ender’s Game film, but I was wrong. Yeah the Ender/Petra hints of romance was a big departure from the source and felt wrong, but still good.
    *flips table.gif*

    1. Thank you! Great adaptation of a sci fi classic. They even put enough effort into Bean for fans of the Bean sub-series. Love that they set up the rest of the Ender books even if they never get made.

  7. Wasn’t giving a thumbs-down to the movie, only noting that its time might have passed. Variety reported that the movie made just over $87-million on a budget of $115-million, and called it one of the “Biggest Box Office Bombs of 2013.”

  8. I was I was young enough for young adult movies to be actually impressionable.

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  13. Good review and helpful in the sense that I was going to give this one a pass and now I’m sure I will.
    One gnit to pick: Ender’s Game is not a “teen dystopia” if for no other reason than that the main characters weren’t supposed to be in their teens. The movie had been under development for decades because the author of the books insisted that the battle school kids should be children, not adolescents and the movie companies kept trying to age them into teens. Additionally, say what you will about the merits of the society of Earth in Ender’s Game but you really can’t classify it as dystopia either.
    I think reason teen dystopias were a craze was due to the sole popularity of Hunger Games, which everyone else was trying to cash in on. Unfortunately for them and us, all they had was teen angst, relationship triangles, and dystopia. They really didn’t do well with the dystopias, though. Where they could have been thought-provoking possibilities, they seemed contrived and trite instead.

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